Exam-taking tips for online students

Exam-taking tips for online students

Whether you're an online student or an on-campus student, test taking can be intimidating.

While it may seem online students have practically infinite time and resources at their disposal when taking an exam, it's simply not true. The tests can largely look the same as other college exams, with similar content and question formats. Online students are required to study as much as anyone else, even possibly benefiting from traditional techniques like flash cards and study groups. But the technology and lack of a professor's presence can make the online student's test taking a unique experience.

Here are three tips for test taking as an online student.

1. Set aside ample time

Just like you set aside time to attend an on-campus class, you must set aside time for the more flexible online classes.

Quite often, online school tests are timed from the moment you click "start exam." The time limit for online school tests may only be an hour, versus one-to-three hours (an entire class period) for on-campus students. So set aside a couple of hours for the test, especially if you don't know the class policy about being able to start the test now and finishing it later.

In addition to making sure you have more than enough time to complete the test, perhaps complete the test days before the deadline, if possible. This way, if any questions or complications arise before or during the actual test, you can voice them to your professor and get the help you need without being late.

Often there's a timer on the test itself, so keep an eye on that as well. Time is usually not your friend when it comes to taking tests, even as an online student.

2. Know the technology in and out

You don't want a technology failure to mess up your test, which is why you should know some stuff up front.

According to Study Guides and Strategies (http://www.studygs.net), you should do the following ahead of time:

  • Make sure your computer is technically capable of running the test. If it's not, issues may arise with cache, security settings, monitor and screen display, Internet connection, or browser Internet options.
  • Make sure you know how to access the test, since "taking the test is not the time to experiment with passwords and/or navigating a course website to find the test," according to the article.

Also, as the University of Southern California (USC) recommends in an article on online test taking, perhaps go somewhere where you can get a wired Ethernet connection when taking the test. You never know when WiFi may mess up, so this is a safer bet. You may be able to find a wired Ethernet connection at a library or your local college campus.

If you do all of this and technology still fails you, at least you can say it's not your fault and possibly gain sympathy from your professor.

3. Close other browsers and applications

You know that Facebook web browser you have up at all times? Yeah, that one. Close it for a couple of hours.

According to the USC article, it's smart to close all other Internet browsers and applications on the computer to ensure you have the most available bandwidth and that you will not "disrupt the test by accidentally clicking outside of the designated test area."

Also, don't open any new browsers or applications, since according to USC in that article, "you risk the possibility of being locked out of the test." That may apply specifically to Blackboard, which a number of colleges use for online courses, but why even risk it? You shouldn't be clicking on other web browsers anyway during the test, since it may not be allowed or may slow you down.

As for doing well on the test itself, that's as much a challenge for the online student as it is the on-campus student. You'll need to study just like everybody else. Whether you do study groups, flash cards, or just flip through your notes is up to you. Just don't let time and technology get in the way of rocking that test.

College tests may be intimidating for online students, but perhaps less so if they're prepared academically, technologically and practically.


Online Test Taking, University of Southern California, http://studentblackboardhelp.usc.edu/coursework/online-test-taking/

Taking Online Tests, Study Guides and Strategies, http://www.studygs.net/online/onlinetest.htm