Elizabeth Gehrig By Elizabeth Gehrig • September 20, 2016

3 Handy Tips From the Pros for Taking an Online Midterm or Final Exam

Exam week: it arrives every semester. You’ve completed your modular activities, studied your textbook and reviewed your exam study guide, if one is available. Now it’s just a matter of sitting down and proving your knowledge on your online exam. But did you know that there are a few things that may make your course exams different from any exams you’ve taken in the past?

It’s true. Some test-taking strategies that work for paper exams may not apply for online exams. And then there’s to guess or not to guess – a whole different question! So to prepare you for your next online midterm or final exam, here are three insider tips meant to boost your test-taking skills.

No Two Exams Are Alike

While everyone in your class will be assessed on the same material and at the same difficulty level, everyone will see a somewhat different set of questions. As a result, no one will see all the same questions as anyone else. And even when you do see some of the same questions, you’ll see them in a different order. Keep this in mind if anyone tries to tell you what’s on the exam. If exam study guides are available in your course, follow those instead because they were created by the same people who developed the exam. These guides will tell you everything that might appear on the exam.  

Complete One Section at a Time

There’s well-known advice that says to read through the whole exam before you start answering questions. However, when you take online exams for your course, this is usually impossible. Midterm and final exams are organized into sections, and you can only see one section at a time. Once you exit a section, you cannot go back to it, even if you left questions unanswered. (Don’t worry, though: you’ll get a warning if you’re about to exit a section with any questions unanswered.)

If you want to, you can read through all the questions within a section and then go back to the beginning of that section to start answering them. Depending on how comfortable you are with online testing, you may find it easier to answer the questions as they appear on the screen, using the assessment navigator to flag questions in that section that you want to come back to later. Keep in mind, though, that your exam will have multiple sections, so you can’t get a preview of the whole exam at the beginning.

Along the same lines, you may have taken exams that allow you to review all of your work at the very end. But again, since you can only see one section of your course exam at a time, when you reach the end of your exam, you’ll only be able to review the last section. A better idea is to review all of your work within each section before you leave that section. 

It Doesn’t Hurt to Guess

You may have taken SATs or other standardized tests where you’d be penalized for a wrong answer on a multiple-choice question, so you had to think twice about guessing. But on your course exams, if you aren’t sure about an answer, you’re better off guessing than leaving it blank. The worst that will happen is that you don’t get credit for your answer, but you won’t lose extra points for getting it wrong. So, read the question carefully and take your best guess.

There you have it: some words of wisdom for taking your midterm or final exam!

Elizabeth Gehrig

Written by Elizabeth Gehrig

Elizabeth Gehrig is a senior assessment development specialist in the Center for Learning and Technology. Passionate about high-stakes testing, her career spans more than 10 years in language testing, credit-by-exam and outcomes assessment. Email her at clt@tesu.edu.

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