Universities and students from different corners of the world are adjusting to studying online. In the season of midterm exams and final assessments, they also need to find the best way to conduct the exams online fairly and on time.
This is particularly important for final year students who need their diplomas on time to continue with their studies at the next level.
The process is complex because there are many factors to consider – the field of study and its requirements, the university’s resources, and the digital preparedness of students. While all of these aspects impact the structure and organisation of university exams, conducting them online helps keep the academic calendar as intact as possible.
Exam options in European universities
Graduate schools in Europe have already started preparing for the digital transition. Copenhagen Business School (Denmark), for example, has taken some long-term decisions:
“It is a major task for lecturers and support functions to move all teaching and exam activities online and for this reason the decision will apply to all exams for the remainder of the semester. So if the lockdown of campus and exam rooms ends before the end of June, exams will still have to be taken online,” says Gregor Halff, Dean of Education at Copenhagen Business School.
Meanwhile, graduate school exams are also a hot topic in the UK, where institutions are trying different approaches. At London School of Economics, students will have the option to defer their assessments to another more appropriate period depending on specific personal circumstances.
In addition, international universities are actively looking for the best way to handle exams for disadvantaged and disabled students.
Experimenting with online assessment
In a recent article for The Guardian, journalist Abby Young-Powell investigated what UK universities are doing to transition to online exams. Some exams such as those at the University of Oxford (UK) will be turned into an open book format which means students can take notes or refer to their study materials. “Another possibility is to run timed, live exams taken from home,” Ms Young-Powell reflected, although this option is more technically challenging.
Of course, the format greatly depends on the field of study being tested. Practical studies such as medicine will have a different approach compared to a purely theoretical subject. Imperial College London (UK) already experienced this first-hand as 280 sixth-year medicine undergraduates took two online exams.
In some cases, universities can postpone exams, but this is not always the best option as the disruption might affect the job search and career plans of future graduates.
How to prepare for online exams
While investing time to study for your exams is crucial, you might have to put in some extra effort to get used to a new online assessment format. Take a look at these simple tips and make your test taking experience online more manageable.
#1. Get the official information
Every institution will have their own process when organising exams online. There might be important details you need to consider, so make sure you use only official instructions shared by your university. You should be able to find them on the website of your programme or department or receive them via email. Don’t shy away from consulting university staff members if you have any questions.
#2. Get personal tips
Once you have familiarised yourself with the online format, you might benefit from asking your professor or a university staff member to help you navigate the exam. Contact them in advance to see if they have any recommendations for a smooth test taking experience. They will not give you an unfair advantage but they might know some tips and tricks about the platform that will give you some peace of mind.
#3. Get comfortable with the format
Finally, make time for testing the platform and getting used to the format of the exam. Can you easily log in online with your credentials? Do your computer camera and/or microphone work properly? Do you know your way around the testing platform? Depending on the format of the exam, you might have to consider different questions but make sure you test everything several times in advance. This will help you make the most of the digital setting while giving you the confidence you need to ace the exam.
While certainly challenging, this experience will provide useful roadmaps for universities so that they can conduct exams online in an inclusive, convenient, and optimal format in the future.