Open-book and at-home exams (Part 2)

Demystifying Exams

Sitting an open-book, at-home exam is different to what most students are used to. In this three-part mini-series, we will offer some practical advice to successfully complete them.

You might think: “I just need to re-read notes, highlight specific sections and quotes, colour-code everything… revision done!” 

Re-reading and highlighting are passive revision techniques. They can help you to become familiar with material, but not with understanding and recalling it. Here, we give some tips to help you with your understanding and recall.

  • Make new summaries of modules/topics/concepts, either distilling the ones you have further, or maybe link to other parts of the course, or even other courses.
  • Work on sample questions prepared by your lecturers. But do not spend lots of time on these – it is unlikely that you will be given the same questions on the exam itself.
  • If your exam has essay questions, make essay plans for potential topics. Planning by using colourful mind maps may make the information more likely to stay in your memory, which will reduce the amount of time you need to spend looking at your notes during the exam. Do not try to prepare many essays in full – this may make you panic if unexpected questions come up that you cannot adjust your existing essays to fit.
  • Test yourself. This could be through the use of flashcards, virtual study group sessions (on e.g. Collaborate), short questions or writing summary notes from memory. Test yourself on the material more than once, with time in between.
  • Focus your time and efforts on the material you find more difficult or feel less confident about.

It is not just about the study activities you do, though. You need to be able to concentrate during your study periods and manage your time effectively. This can be hard to achieve when you are in your house most of the time – there are so many other things you could be doing, like the dishes or watching TV.

  • Draw up a revision plan (by hand, in a diary, on an Outlook Calendar, etc.) for how long you will revise, and what you will revise. Do not plan to study all the time. Schedule time for relaxation, sleep, fun, as well as any urgent things that may come up. Aim to break your revision into shorter, focused spells, rather than endless hours that will tire and demotivate you.
  • Introduce variety. Instead of working a whole day on topic A, start to work on topic A in the morning, have a break, change to topic B, break, and so on. Similarly, do not spend entire days just re-writing notes or just doing past papers. This can get boring and make you lose concentration. Try doing summary notes in the morning and virtual study groups later, for example.
  • Give yourself time to revise things more than once.

In the next post, Open-book and at-home exams (Part 3), we will look at things to consider on the day of the exam itself.


Further Links

Study Hub Learning Resources has advice on Exams and Time management.

There is also advice on preparing for, revising and sitting exams in Exam Bootcamp (a self-enrol course in LEARN).

Is your revision game up to date?

Open-book and at-home exams (Part 1) – preparing.