A Fool-proof guide to different types of exams

Stopwatch ticking, pen scratching on paper, and we write down everything in our brain – this is how we usually take exams in high school. However, exams come in various shapes and sizes at Warwick. Apart from the timed exam in an exam hall, there are 24-hour and 7-day take-home exams. In these long open-book exams, speed and memory are no longer the only keys to high grades. You may find them unfamiliar, but don’t feel panic. Hopefully blogger Angel’s tips can help you prepare and handle the different forms of exams.

By Angel Sun.

7-day Take-Home Exam

It may sound weird to many freshers, but this is a common exam in many arts and humanities courses. In the 7-day exam period, students are required to write an essay with or without footnotes, depending on the requirements of different departments. You can use all the materials you have, so you need not memorise all the content. Yet, it is important to review your notes before the exam starts. Read them, organise them, and place them in the correct folders on your laptops. Then, you will not waste your time browsing the relevant information in the ocean of Word documents during the exam. 

A small doodle on a piece of paper being held up in front of a window looking out onto a large building. There is a blue sky.
Image: Angel Sun.

On the first day of the exam period, the list of essay topics is available on the assessment website. The link is sent by your department before the exam begins, so don’t forget to bookmark the webpage in advance. After you receive the topics, just read them carefully and plan your essays like how you usually do. 7 days are sufficient, so don’t rush and miss any important details.    

A picture of a notebook with a plan for a 7-day exam.
My plans for my 7-day exam. Image: Angel Sun.

It is challenging to stay concentrated throughout the exam period. The sense of having plentiful time may encourage you to procrastinate, and the exciting student activities on campus may distract you. Last year, the opening ceremony of the Faculty of Art building was held during my take-home exam. There were K-pop performances, a picnic, and even a pop-up escape room. On one hand, I thought I had enough time because there were a few days left. On the other hand, not studying during the exam period brought me an overwhelming sense of guilt. I rejected my friends’ invitation at last, but taking breaks is necessary to keep you motivated in the 7-day period.

The 7-day take home exam is not a test of speed, but an assessment of self-discipline and endurance. It would help if you wrote a thorough schedule about how much you should finish each day at the beginning. It helps you stay motivated and adjust the pace from time to time. For example, I finished the first draft of my essay on the fourth day. Considering that I only needed to make corrections and modify it, I participated in a revision session of the Baking Society, in which I could work with some scrumptious cupcakes and relaxing music with my friends. Remember to eat well, sleep well and don’t burn yourself out. Everything is going to be fine.

24-hour Take-Home Exam

It is a middle ground between the timed exam of a few hours and the 7-day one. While you don’t need to recite all the details, there is less time for reading and going through your notes again. Thus, make sure that you are familiar with the syllabus and all the crucial information. Besides, don’t forget to spare enough time for uploading assignments and contact the IT department immediately when there is any technical issue. It may help if you mark down the contact of the IT department.

Furthermore, it is vital to understand how you can stay more concentrated. If you can hardly remain focused in the casual setting of your bedroom, or you are easily distracted by the noise in your flat, you can take the exam in the library. In contrast, some of my friends find that a sense of comfort can boost their energy and lead to a better performance. Hence, they prefer taking their exams in their favourite pyjamas or even with some music on. Remember to take the exam in the place and setting that suits you the most.

An exterior of a large building with the word 'junction' written on it in black letters. There are trees and blue sky in the background.
The Junction on Warwick Campus, one of the exam venues. Image: Angel Sun.

Unlike the traditional timed exam, the long take home exam tests students’ critical thinking, elaboration and source using skill instead of memorisation capacity. You may feel nervous about the unfamiliarity of these forms of exam, but they actually provide a better alternative for the assessment of your academic level. Your hard work always pays off, and good luck this exam season!

If you will have a closed-book exam, why not take a look at Emily’s advice? There are more tips about how to stay productive on Matt’s blog too. 

Do you have other tips about handling various forms of exam at Warwick? You can share your experience by tweeting us @warwicklibrary, messaging us on Instagram @warwicklibrary, or emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk

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