How to Tackle Online Exams

This semester we have attended classes from home, stared at our computers more than we ever wanted to, and spent a record amount of time with our roommates. No matter what challenges we faced the last few months, we are so close to being done with our first fully virtual semester! The last hurdle is finals, which are being done from a record breaking amount of locations. Whether you are in Blacksburg for the end of the semester or somewhere else, I hope these tips help you find some normalcy in finals week and help you finish strong.



Utilize a calendar of some sort

You have probably heard it a million times, but especially going into finals, a plan is never a bad idea. Google calendar is great, but a piece of paper works too. Using a calendar can vary from scheduling every waking hour to simply writing down the important things. Either way, getting your schedule and tasks on paper can clear up some headspace to remember all the information you need for finals. Especially with assignments wrapping up for each class at different times, the end of the semester can be chaotic. Even just keeping a list around to write things down as you remember them can keep you on top of everything.



Take advantage of easy access to office hours

One benefit of virtual education is that office hours and review sessions are only a click away. No trekking to campus in the frigid cold to get a few questions answered. I encourage you to use these resources when you have time. As someone who never liked going to office hours before, being able to go on Zoom has been helpful and convenient, especially before exams.



Handwrite notes

Every finals week, the advice to write down information by hand instead of typing it seems to make an appearance, but this year it’s good advice for a few reasons. First, is because writing notes by hand does help with memorization. The second is because we already spend a good portion of the day looking at a screen and if you can study from something other than a screen for at least a little bit, you may be able to avoid some of the strain on your eyes. The final reason is that if you have any open note finals, having written notes may be easier to look through than digital ones.



Change location

Studying from home can be distracting and frustrating. If you can, try to find a coffee shop or public place you are able to focus. If you are confined to your house, try to find the best place in the house to study. I suggest using an office or the dining room, somewhere just boring and quiet enough to not be distracted.



Set boundaries

Especially if you are home, it can be hard to be in work mode when your family is bustling around you and very much not studying for finals. Let your household know when your finals are and for how long you will need to be left alone to focus. If you have family obligations, try to schedule them in or explain you will be able to do more once finals are over.



Find your perfect background sound

Music? Coffee shop bustle? Silence? Movie playing in the background? Find what suits you- chances are it’s what you have been listening to all semester, but could be different if you are studying at home or somewhere you haven’t spent most of the semester. I personally enjoy listening to country music, but when I really need to focus I switch to instrumental or Lo-Fi playlists.



Study in the environment in which you will take a test

Most of us have heard of the psychological tip that chewing gum while you are studying, then the same gum when you take the exam, helps you remember more. The same idea applies to the environment in which you take the test. Especially since we won’t be going to a specific classroom to get us into the test headspace, studying similar to how you will take the test may help boost your memory. For example, I usually study with music in, with my planner and random papers on my desk, and my graphing calculator whether I need it or not. For a little bit I’ll clear my desk, turn my music off, and only use a calculator if I’m allowed to on my exam. This practice helps make the silence of taking the actual test a little less daunting.


However you study and wherever you study from, do not forget to congratulate yourself on getting through a very difficult semester! No matter the outcome of finals, we have already persevered through a lot this semester and deserve to celebrate that.


By: Grace Farmelo

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