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How to Ace Your Online Finals

How to study for online finals

Now that most schools have shifted to virtual classes, finals will most likely be held online too. For some, this format means greater flexibility and time, along with reduced stress, in comparison to the typical memorization of months of material involved in an in-person exam that takes place over the course of just a few hours. For others, online finals can be more stressful, as we’re removed from our usual study routines and could face unexpected test formats. Read on for some ways to effectively study for online finals so that you can feel confident when you open up your computer to take that test.

Preparation and organization is key to your success

Lots of preparation goes into test-taking, regardless of the exam’s format. Whether or not you’re taking the exam in-person or online, make sure you’re prepared. Take note of the exam’s guidelines, format, date, and time, so that you can have immediate access to the link or file when the exam begins and you know what to expect.  

Some exams are now “open-note” or “open-book,” meaning that you can reference your notes and other materials throughout the test. A lot of people think that this format makes exams easier, and in some cases, it can. In reality, having your books and notes spread out on your desk during the exam can be distracting and time-intensive. You could end up spending hours searching and reviewing your notes for one question, wasting precious time. I recommend studying as you would for a normal, in-person exam, and then effectively organizing your notes based on topic to find additional information easily. Place tabs or sticky-notes at the top of important pages or new sections, and even make a one-page outline of the most important topics or concepts. Ultimately, these methods will help you study and access crucial information during the exam.

Plan out your day and work space

Depending on the format and timing of your exam, you’ll want to have a good plan in place. This plan can include where you’ll take the exam, when you’ll begin, and what materials you need around you. Will your family be home during this time? If so, you may want to let them know that you’ll be in an exam and need to focus. Carve out a quiet, well-lit study space where you know you do your best work. Further, some exams may be given within a window of time, so it need not be completed within just a few hours. In this case, decide when you will start the exam, how much time you will need per question, and when you plan to submit it. You’ll feel more confident if you have a game-plan for the day of the exam. 

Present yourself and what you know with confidence

In hours before the exam, make sure you’re ready to perform. Turn all distractions off, and even put your phone in another room. Adjust your computer’s settings to “Do not disturb” mode to avoid social media or email notifications. Have water, a notepad and pen, your notes, and your fully-charged computer at your desk. During the exam, you may want to write your answers in another document or writing program such as Google Docs or Word before inputting them into the exam document. This way, you can review your work and make edits safely, then finalize everything in the actual exam. If you face any technical problems, take some deep breaths first. Then reach out to your instructor or proctor, and then work on troubleshooting. Your instructors know that issues may arise online, but be sure to communicate any problems before it’s too late.

Whether you’re excited or dismayed by the prospect of online finals, remember that you can do this! Many of the same studying techniques of in-person exams apply to the online format. However, organization techniques may be of even greater importance if class notes are now acceptable. You’ll perform your best if you can enter the exam organized and confident. And if problems do arise during the test, remain calm and communicate. Just get through these last few tests, and then you’ll be proud to have completed a uniquely challenging semester!

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