It’s that time of year again when you form study groups, create a study plan, and get down to revising and memorising content from weeks 1-12 in order to ace your exams. However, this year, instead of planning your route to the exam venue and sharpening your favourite pencil, you’re going to be walking just a few steps to your computer to complete a final assessment. This may come in the form of an assignment, an open book assessment or eExam, or timed (closed book) eExam that may be scheduled to start at 9.30am, 2pm, or 6pm. This means you may have to write an evening exam which, if you’re not a night owl like myself, may prove challenging.

In light of these changes, I’ve come up with a list of tips to help you get through your final assessments – day or night – all from the comfort of your home.

Get comfy
While I wouldn’t usually recommend wearing your trackies all day, unusual times call for unusual measures. Being comfortable when writing a final assessment allows you to focus your mental energy on the task at hand, rather than thinking about how uncomfortable you are in those jeans. So, embrace the comfy pants. Pop on a sweater so you’re warm (though not so warm you get sleepy!), and bust out those fuzzy socks. Additionally, ensure the space you’ll be working in is comfortable too: make sure your desk is clear, chair is sturdy, and the temperature is just right.

Stay hydrated
Headaches are painful distractions: to minimise the risk of getting one during your final assessment, be sure to stay well hydrated. Keep a water bottle on your desk during your assessment so you can sip between questions.

Eat a light breakfast/lunch/dinner beforehand
In order to think clearly, your brain needs nourishment. In order to not fall asleep mid-assessment, you should avoid eating a giant plate of carbs beforehand. Therefore, it’s best to eat a light meal prior to your assessment so you stay satiated throughout.

Do something calming
While it can be tempting to try to cram in a few more facts right before the exam, doing so can actually make you more anxious. Remember that you know more than you think you do! Use the time prior to your assessment to do something you enjoy and which will relax you, such as listening to music, doing a crossword, or meditating. Use this time to motivate yourself for the task ahead.

Be early, be prepared, be attentive
While you’re not having to physically go to an exam venue this year, you do still have to complete your final assessment at or by a prescribed time. If you have to attend a timed eExam, you will need to log into your computer ahead of time: note that how early you must log on varies depending on the eExam, and thus it’s important you familiarise yourself with the rules and regulations surrounding eExams. Some eExams may also require you to write or draw something on a piece of paper and then take a picture of it later. Be sure to carefully read all instructions given by your lecturer, and follow the guidelines on the eExam website to ensure you complete these tasks properly. If you’re required to write something by hand, be sure to have a pen, pencil, blank paper, and your phone (for pictures) ready prior to starting the exam. Additionally, ensure your computer is plugged in and charged, that you have your MPass ready, and that your water bottle is filled.

Get some fresh air and (light) exercise
Exercise is a great way to burn off any nervous energy you might have, however, now is not the time for leg day! Light exercise, like taking a walk or going for a brief cycle, can help you centre yourself prior to your final assessment. If your assessment is in the evening, light exercise and fresh air can help you feel refreshed and ‘awake’. Just remember to keep whatever activity you do light so you don’t tire yourself out!

Drink caffeine responsibly
If your final assessment is in the evening, you might be tempted to use caffeine as the motivating factor to get you through the night. I recommend drinking coffee and caffeinated beverages with caution, as while they can (in most people) give you a burst of energy, that burst is often short lived. Try instead to drink water and eat a healthy meal prior to starting (as mentioned above), and keep your caffeine consumption to a minimum.

Ah, the humble nap, a student’s best friend. Naps were how I got through my undergraduate evening exams. A short, 20 minute power nap can help you stay motivated and refreshed for your evening final assessment. Just be sure you wake up in time for them: multiple alarms are a must!

Get used to studying at night
If you’re not a night owl and you don’t usually work in the evening – and you have an evening assessment – I recommend you start practising working at night. If your eExam, for example, is from 6-8pm, practise studying and answering questions during this time, a week or two in advance of your eExam. This will train your brain to not only retain and recall information at a different time, but to also get you used to engaging academically at a later time than normal. If you develop this habit prior to the eExam, it’ll make writing that final assessment much easier, as you’re already used to it.

Plan your exam before you start
Don’t forget to carefully read the instructions of your exam prior to starting (reading time is incorporated into your overall exam time), and calculate how much time you should spend on each section of your assessment. Note that eExams will have a clock in the corner, so you can check how much time is left.

Stay positive
The key to getting through final assessments is to stay positive and keep yourself motivated. If you get stuck on a question, take a moment to collect your thoughts. Brainstorm ideas in the notes section of your eExam, or on a piece of paper (if allowed). If the answer isn’t coming to you, move on to the next question and come back to the one you skipped later (make a note so you remember to do so!). Plan something fun to do (while observing physical distancing!) after the exam to reward yourself for getting through that final hurdle requirement. You deserve it!

If you’d like more information on how to prepare for your final assessments, check out ‘Preparing for Final Assessments’ on Research and Learning Online.

If you want to discuss exam taking strategies, feel free to speak to a Learning Skills Adviser at one of our drop-ins.  Good luck!


About the author: Dr Stephanie Jury is a Learning Skills Adviser at the Pharmacy Library, Parkville campus.