Take home exams might sound like easy credit, but in truth, they can be much harder than you anticipate. If you have a take home exam coming up, you’ll likely be given very limited time to complete it – and you’ll need to on top of your resources and subject matter if you plan on succeeding.
What is a Take Home Exam?
- If you’ve never done one before, a take home exam is simply an exam that you do at home (or anywhere else you like), as opposed to sitting in a supervised exam room/space.
- Unlike exams that you take in class, you can use any notes, books or resources in a take home exam. In most cases, you are prohibited from collaborating with other students (whether current or past) in completing the exam or using resources from past exams.
- Take home exams will always have time limits (e.g. 4 hours, 2 days, 1 week) and you are responsible for handing in your exam by the required deadline.
- Some courses utilise take home exams because they give you a chance to demonstrate a more thorough understanding of your topic, use more creativity or work through more complex problems using the resources you have.
- The type of exam will depend on the subject and tutor, but generally an exam can be an essay (or a series of short essays) or a traditional test with multiple questions.
- While you can use notes and books to answer the exam questions, it is still important that you study regularly and understand your subject matter. Don’t assume you’re going to pass with flying colours simply because you’ve got your books around you!
Mastering the Take Home Exam
Know Your Resources
Resources will be useless if you don’t know how to use them to find the answers or examples you need!
- Plenty of study and revision will put you ahead of the rest, as will knowing your books and resources inside out. You won’t want to spend valuable exam time searching for notes or trying to work out where to find the information you need.
- If feasible, you can also consider drawing up a resource or reference list to help you easily find and access certain information. This can be a lifesaver if you find yourself surrounded by dozens of books or hundreds of pages of material (which can be common in degrees like Law).
Prep Your Space
Where will you do your exam? At home? In a cafe or in the campus library? It’s important to plan out the logistics so that you don’t become stuck or frazzled and waste precious exam time.
- How will you complete your exam? Will you use your laptop or will you need to book a computer on campus? Will you need Internet access?
- If doing your exam in a public place (e.g. library), what will you do if you need to go to the bathroom? Will you take your laptop and all your books with you?
- If doing your exam at home, will you be able to find a quiet space free of interruptions?
- What other accessories can help you study? E.g. Will you use your iPod?
Create an Exam Schedule
A schedule will help you immensely, especially if you don’t have much exam time. The last thing you’ll want is to realise you’ve got lots of work ahead of you – and not enough time to do it.
- Create a schedule that outlines how much time you’re going to spend on each question (or perhaps each ‘point’ of your essay).
- Don’t forget to schedule in things like food and breaks to keep your brain fresh and alert. If your exam time spread over more than 1 day, think about when you will also sleep etc.
- Schedule editing and proofreading time. When it comes to clarity and errors, tutors won’t be as lenient with take home exams. Give yourself plenty of time to edit and proofread your work before handing it in.
- Plan to complete your exam early. For all take home exams, it’s your responsibility to ensure the test is handed in on time (no excuses). You’ll need to leave yourself lots of time to print, fill in any cover sheets and deliver your exam – and to deal with anything that goes wrong at the last minute.
Organise Your Resources
When it comes close to exam time, organise your resources.
- Organisation is important since you’ll want all of your material on hand as soon as you sit down to take the exam.
- Collate all of the books and notes materials you think you will need in your study space. If you’re going to do the exam elsewhere, plan what books/notes/readers you will take with you (and also ask: will you be able to carry them all?)
- If you want to use the Internet during your exam, make sure you also have access to the websites and information you need. Bookmarking web pages in advance is a good way to prepare.
Finally, disruptions and distractions during exam time can cost you dearly. Get rid of all distractions before you get started on your take home exam. This means:
- Turning off your phone
- Avoiding Facebook and other social media sites
- Avoiding conversations with others
- Keeping the TV off
- Ensuring kids, pets or other ‘at home’ distractions are taken care of (e.g. Could you send your kids to a babysitter? Or ask your friend to mind your pet?)
We said it before, and we’ll say it again – they secret to mastering any exam is to study, study, study! The more you know, the more efficiently you’ll be able to use your allotted time – and ace that take home test!