Online fixed-time exams: your questions answered

Posted in: academic skills, exams

Most exams for Semester 2 2021/22 will be online 'fixed-time' exams – short in duration, scheduled in a specific time slot and sat remotely via Inspera. Here are some questions you may have if you’re taking this type of exam.

Are fixed-time exams like traditional exams but online?

In many ways, yes. Because they’re short, you’ll need to work quickly and know your stuff. Revise as you would for in-person timed exams – don’t expect to be able to treat them like coursework assignments.

But remember, too, that they're still open-book exams, so they involve more than simply memorising information. 

Understand what each exam is assessing and prepare accordingly. This usually means thinking critically, making connections between topics and applying concepts to real-life situations. 

Explore different ways of making notes, study past papers and do plenty of timed practice. See Top tips for taking open book exams 1 for more ideas on how to prepare.

How should I use reference materials?

This also calls for careful planning. Using notes and resources strategically will buy you time in the exam; forgetting to organise them or relying on them too much will do the opposite. 

Consider how you’ll manage paper and digital resources and devise a quick-access system for locating specific information. Use your reference materials to do timed practice and keep fine-tuning your system. Prepare any references you’re likely to need ahead of time. 

It’s all about figuring out what’s realistic in the time available and where you could save valuable minutes.

What if I have a tech problem?

It’s natural to feel anxious about taking exams online, especially when the timeframe is tight, but there’s lots you can do to put your mind at rest. 

Make sure you learn about the online assessment platform, Inspera, log in and try it out well before your first exam. 

You can find detailed information about using Inspera on the University’s Exams and assessments webpage and also in this module, which includes a handy troubleshooting guide.

Check your internet connection and install any necessary software and updates on your computer. Focus on what you can control and find out exactly what to do if there’s a problem. Then you can stop worrying and get down to the important business of revising.

Are fixed-time exams harder than other kinds of exams?

Not if you prepare in the right way. All types of assessment come with pros and cons, and fixed-time exams are no different. 

Don’t forget that they offer plenty of positives. You can set up your workspace how you want and wear your comfy slippers! You’ll have your notes on hand, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting a crucial fact or formula. And, of course, they’re short, so they’ll be over before you know it. 

Remember that preparation is the key to confidence. Start early, gather as much information as you can and plan your strategy. Visualise what the exam will be like. Then you can visualise it going well.

Good luck!

If you have any more questions about online fixed-time exams, please comment below.

Blog reviewed April 2022.

Posted in: academic skills, exams

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