Residential Life

How to ace your performance in the new exam format

By Nora 30 Apr 2020

a woman sitting at a table using a laptop computer

Most London universities have changed their exam formats for non-first year undergraduates and postgraduates. 

Students will now be assessed through coursework or through online examinations completed over 24 hours. Changing from traditional exams to online and coursework-based assessments can be daunting to many students who do not know how to prepare and revise for these exams. Even though completing exams in the comfort of your home sounds intriguing, preparing for a hectic exam season will help you perform your best. 

Below, I will give some tips on how to best prepare for these assessments and how to optimize your performance in these exams. 

Organize your notes and understand the content  

Even though you have more freedom in the way you complete your examinations, you still have to make sure you know the content you were taught throughout the year. Knowing background information will help guide your answers more efficiently compared to blindly finding the relevant information that answers the question. Make sure you have notes from all the lectures throughout the year, as well the relevant background information for all the topics. 

Find an area in your house where you are comfortable doing schoolwork 

Whether you need to study, complete an online exam or finish your coursework, finding a room in your house which is relatively silent, comfortable and has a good internet connection can be a challenge. Make sure you have found your ‘study room’ before the exam period, so you can optimize your productivity when the time comes. 

Make a timetable and schedule 

a person writing in a calendar

Make sure you allocate enough time to finish your coursework and study for your exams. A solid schedule detailing the time in the day allocated for school work is important to ensure you are on top of your deadlines. Additionally, make sure you plan around the days you have exams since you do not want to make big plans on the days you have assessments. This is especially important if you live in a different time zone to the UK! 

Keep a healthy routine 

Sleeping well, exercising and maintaining a good work-life balance is important whilst you are in quarantine. Maintaining healthy habits will optimize your performance during the exam period. 

Coursework-based exams 

Find out the essential information needed to complete the coursework :

  • What is the deadline? 
  • How much time do you have to complete the coursework? 
  • When will you find out the essay question? 
  • What is the word limit? 
  • Do you need to include citations or references? 
  • Can you add diagrams? 

Ask your lecturer for sample questions so you can practice them at home 

a man sitting at a table using a laptop computer

Online exam 

Learn the material! 

  • Open book exams are known for being more subjective, with the goal to show how you apply the information rather than just remembering facts 

  • It is beneficial to show you have thought through conceptual frameworks and philosophical positions

  • Make sure you have some general conclusions in mind and understand how and why topics are linked 

  • A useful way to learn is through knowing the basic answer and using the open book to look up an exact formula, numerical values or supporting evidence for your answer 

Find out what type of exam it is and prepare accordingly. 

  • Multiple choice? Essay? Short answer?
  • How long should the answers be? 
  • Do you need to add references? 
  • Are you tested on lectures you missed because of cancelled lectures?

Organise your resources so you can find the information you need effectively

  • Even though students have been given 24 hours to complete examinations, it is important to remember that a small amount of preparation goes a long way

  • Organising your notes is not only a great way to revise, but will also help your efficiency when completing your exams. Examples on how to organise your content include: 

    • Tables of contents and index pages to locate relevant sections

    • Bookmarking useful chapters or pages

    • Preparing brief summaries

    • Preparing a list of key information likely to be used

    • Using index cards to list key topics and relevant page numbers of texts

    • Using clear headings

Good luck!

Nora profile picture

Nora is Resident Advisor (Nutford House)
View All Posts