In this blog I identify some key steps in preparing for online computer-based exams. Taking a few simple steps will help you to maximise your marks in this exam format.

On a good note, many of the steps to complete an online exam are quite similar to those that you need to prepare for a hand written exam. However, the online environment does present some differences that warrant a bit of extra awareness and preparation. But before I focus on online computer based exams, and as with handwritten paper-based exams, you still must remember some of the fundamentals for both which include…

Start with the Syllabus/ Competency Statements/ Study Guide
The golden rule for success in any assessment is to prepare thoroughly. Always start with these source documents that the examiners work from when preparing the exams. Familiarise yourself with the main sections of the syllabus and the subject areas within these sections. Pay attention to the structure of the exam and as exam questions are drawn from across all syllabus areas, you must make sure that you fully understand as many areas as possible.

Use the Appropriate Materials
Use approved and high-quality textbooks along with lecture notes/ own notes. Your materials must be detailed enough to ensure all areas are covered, but concise enough to ensure you are not wasting time. Work methodically through the materials in conjunction with the Syllabus/ Competency Statements/ Study Guide to ensure you gain the knowledge you need and learn how to apply that knowledge to pass the exam. Don’t be afraid to use the Internet/ Google/ YouTube either in order to get the information you need.

Use Specimen/ Mock Online Exams
These exams provide an insight into the question types and syllabus coverage in the actual exams and how your online exams will work.

Review Previous Examiner’s Reports/ Comments
The examiner explains questions which candidates appear to find most difficult, explains misunderstandings and clarifies specific areas of the syllabus where knowledge or understanding may have been weak. Understand and adopt the feedback they give!

Technical Articles
Review and keep up to date with Technical Articles published by your Institute.

Various Other Tips
Work on your time management.
Practising as many different types of question as possible.
Developing your own strategy for different types of question.
Think clearly in the exam.
Planning and structuring your approach to the exam and your answers.
Answering all the question(s).
It is imperative that the ‘prompt’ (i.e. the actual question that is to be answered) is understood carefully.

Specific Tips for sitting Online Computer Based Exams

As part of your preparation, especially in your mock online exams and well in advance of your main exam you must think about and get familiar with the following –

  • It is essential that you practice answering questions on a computer before the real exam, via using your own computer software (e.g. using Microsoft Word/ Excel), or the software provided by your Institute, as well as practicing normal hand written questions. You should become familiar with how to move around the actual online exam screens, giving you confidence and saving you time in the real exam.
  • Do as many online mock exams as possible.
  • Understand the guidance provided by your Institute, e.g. release of mock exams, use of online invigilation, video tutorials of the online platform, what identification documents are required, what you can and can’t have with you for your exam etc
  • Contact your Institute to clarify any of your queries well in advance of the exam.
  • Typing/ Keyboard practice is crucial and should be integrated into your study.
  • Read my blog on how to improve your typing skills here –

If taking the exam not at an exam centre (e.g. at home) –

  • Make sure your browser is up to date, and it is the preferred browser as suggested by your Institute.
  • Make sure your battery is charged.
  • Avoid last-minute problems! Whether you are using your own computer or someone else’s, make sure that it has all the correct hardware and software well in advance of the exam.
  • Test your equipment well in advance of the exam
  • Also make sure you will be in a location with adequate internet.
  • Make sure you are at a desk with adequate space, natural light, heat, and ventilation.
  • Let your roommates or family know that you will be taking an online exam, so that they are less likely to interrupt you during that time.
  • Understand your Institute’s procedures if you require a toilet break.
  • Keep all distractions (e.g. phone) to a minimum and remain focused on your exam.
  • Gather all that you will need to take the test. If you can have materials such as notes, calculator, books, or writing implements with you, be sure that they are set ready to go.
  • Have some water, sweets, banana etc with you to keep your energy up.
  • Follow the on-screen instructions.
  • Are there any other important, “need to know” factors outlined by the examiner?
  • Are you presented with one question/ case at a time to help you focus on each question?
  • Do you record your answer on the same screen as the question?
  • Remember to get familiar with reading. Take time to read the question/ case carefully on screen to ensure you do not miss any important information.
  • Get used to any ‘Help’ features if they are provided via the Online Platform provided by your Institute
  • Take notes as you are reading the questions/ case. These notes need to be quick and to the point as you are limited on time.
  • Keep an eye on the clock. Have an analogue clock (not your phone) on your desk when completing your exam. You may want to set an alarm to notify you when you have limited time (e.g. 10 minutes) remaining in your exam period.
  • If allowed by your examiner, save copies of the exam questions, as well as your answers. These will prove extremely helpful if you have technical problems during the test or if you encounter issues while submitting your answers.
  • Do not leave your answer page as you may lose all your work. Instead, if you need to, open a second copy of your browser.
  • Technical problems? Do not panic. But do contact your examiner immediately, detailing the exact problem that occurred and any error messages you might have received. If you can take a screen shot, that is helpful as well.
  • Check your work before you submit it. Ensure that every answer is complete and appears as you intended. Review the accuracy of your answers, as well as your spelling and grammar.

Click submit. You should only need to do so once, but if you have a problem, try once more. If you still have a problem submitting the test, let your examiner know immediately, and send your intended answers in an attached document.