Academic Success


If you are one of the many students who has an exam as their final assessment item, there is a chance your exam may now be rescheduled so it is online. If this is brand new to you then you might be wondering how it actually works. We got in touch with Alison Hillier a Learning Advisor with Learning Support to explore what the online exam setting will look like. However, keep in mind that some exams may have been changed to an assessment that is no longer a scheduled exam in the formal exam period. These assessments will not appear in the exam timetable. You should check Blackboard for all of your courses to be aware of changes to any exams or assessments.

What is an online exam?

Firstly, what exactly is an online exam? What does it look like this semester and how do you take it?

“Think of any weekly multiple-choice quiz you might have done in Blackboard…rather than sitting in a (very cold and miserable) classroom on a random Tuesday in July to do your exam, you’ll be able to sit at your laptop in the comfort of your home with a warm blanket around your knees to do your online exam.  This type also has the advantage (for the lecturer) of not having to decipher handwriting!  I know my lecturers would have really appreciated that!” – Alison Hillier, Senior Learning Advisor

Exams scheduled in the formal exam period will be in one of two formats:

  • Online exam (Fixed start): The exam will be available in the Assessment tab in Blackboard at the scheduled date and time on the exam timetable. You will be required to complete the exam within an allocated period of time advised in Blackboard. All students complete the exam at the same time regardless of time zone, unless otherwise advised by their Course Coordinator.
  • Online Timed Exam (Flexible Start): The exam will be available in the Assessment tab in Blackboard at the scheduled date and time on the exam timetable. Students must complete the exam within an allocated time but may commence within a 9-hour period.

The only exception to any of the above is if you are a student on a Reasonable Adjustment Plan. Check with AccessAbility to ensure that your Plan is being applied to online exams.

What can I have with me?

Check your Course Outline as the first port of call to see whether you have any restrictions on allowable exam materials. If you are unsure then seek clarification from your course coordinator. As Alison points out, even if you are given unlimited access to materials you need to carefully consider what will ACTUALLY be helpful for you. She says: “ Think like a lecturer – if you were setting the exam, what do you think they’d ask you?  Look at the course outcomes (again, this is in the Course Outline)… and see if you can predict the questions they will ask.”

What if I have a technical issue during the exam?

The digital times of COVID have inevitably presented technical difficulties. If there is a glitch during your exam – don’t panic! Email your Course Coordinator straight away (it would be helpful to write it down before your Exam starts). If you have dodgy Wifi then using hotspot might be a safer option.

If you are very concerned about doing the exam at home, you are welcome to book a private study room at the library (just check with the library to make sure they are available).

Adverse circumstances applications can be made for online exams if your ability to complete it is affected by technical difficulties. You will need documentation and evidence (such as screenshots of the BSOD).

Feeling confident that you know how to take your online exam now? If you ever have any doubts, get in contact with your course coordinator for clarification!

Feature image via Unsplash