4 min read

How Home Exams are different to Regular Exams

How Home Exams are different to Regular Exams

by Newcastle University

With exam season around the corner, this year is undeniably unlike any other. Revision sessions in the library are no more and bedrooms are both the new workspace and exam hall. But how exactly is this new way of examination different and what can you expect?

Here’s 5 things to help you understand, adapt and ace this “quite different” exam period.

1. Environment

Environment 2

One of the biggest differences for home exams is undoubtedly where you take them. Gone are the days (for now) of queueing up nervously outside the exam hall and showing your student card for attendance. This exam period, examinations will be sat from the comfort of your own home and released through the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) rather than exam invigilators.

However, whilst it may sound awesome sitting an exam from your bedside, working from home can mean more distractions and possibly, less productivity. So, have a think about where you work best. Find yourself a workspace where distractions from family or house-mates are limited, where you have all your resources within arms-reach and where you can completely focus on the task at hand.

Additionally, think about when you concentrate most effectively, whether that be in the morning or in the evening, and if you house-share, think when is best to access all the technology you need i.e. when is the best WiFi signal? Understanding and planning this new and more controlled work environment may help relieve those traditional exam worries.

Top tip: Organise a desk space near a window for some fresh air or work in another room to help separate your "work space" and "me space".

2. Time


As well as remembering exam content, time management is also top of the list for best exam practice. For home exams, the general time period is 24 hours, a significant difference from the 2-3 hours spent previously. While there is no fixed duration for how long you should spend on a home exam, there is an expectation that the paper will take approximately the same length of time for you to complete as the original planned exam and you are not expected to, nor it is advisable to, work for 24 hours straight. Your module leader will tell you how long is expected and may give you other indications such as a word limit.

Although 24-hours may seem like a long time, organising and adapting your time smartly will certainly help prevent any last minute worries and ensure you have enough time left to check your work.

You could;

  • Do it all in one go to maintain focus.
  • Divide the exam into two and break in the middle to recharge and refuel.
  • Split the exam into manageable chunks throughout the day. This may involve reading, drafting and finalising your answers separately with breaks in-between.

Find more on managing your time here.

Top Tip: You won’t have the exam invigilator reminding you of the time at the half-way point, so set an alarm on your phone or watch to keep yourself on track. When the alarm chimes, quickly reflect on what you have completed thus far, what is due ahead and make any changes to your technique as needed.

3. Resources


Imagine sitting an exam where you’re allowed to access your notes whenever you like… Well, home exams are just that! Home exams are 'open book', meaning you will be able to access your lecture notes, textbooks, journal articles and any resources available to you online. You can also find your university files via the Windows Virtual Desktop, if you wish to do so.

Instead of assessing your memory, these exams require higher order thinking, such as application, analysis, criticality and evaluation, meaning revision and preparation is still crucial. To assess your critical thinking, the exam may offer a scenario, case study or article and you will likely be expected to go beyond your lecture notes and textbooks and “show-off” with the wider variety of sources you have available.

Think about what is going to make your home exam stand out. Maybe include a unique case study unmentioned in lectures? Including something like this will show your breadth of knowledge and willingness to exceed expectations. Yet, don't be tempted to just copy and paste. Paraphrasing and explaining something in your own words (with a citation) is a far better way to demonstrate that you've really understood something.

Top Tip: With all this resource, it can be overwhelming. So organise your sources by topic or summarise the key points so you can easily reference the source when needed. Also, if required, remember to include a bibliography and reference correctly to avoid plagiarism as you would in any assignment. Your school or module leader will inform you on whether this is required for your exam.

4. Revision


In a regular exam, you may find yourself memorising, testing, re-testing and drafting questions which your module leader has pre-empted, ready to regurgitate on exam day. Except this exam season, your resources are literally at your finger tips, so memorising content isn't exactly the top of your worries. With all this time and resource, it might seem logical to do the preparation during the 24 hours, once you know what the question will be. But, like any exam, it is best to get ahead.

You will still be assessed on outcomes specified for the module, and address material you've already covered in teaching, so you may be able to preempt what topics will be on the exam. Instead of testing and memorising, use past-papers to rehearse these topics and draft some critical responses ready. Additionally, if your home exam involves a case study and you have access to it, try to read the case at least once before the exam day to ensure you are completely organised.

Top Tip: Still treat a "home exam" like a regular exam. Use your resources when needed but plan to approach the exam without referring to them constantly. This won't only help your time management but it will also improve your confidence. Discover more revision tips here.

5. Submission


The pain of asking for more paper or a new pen during an exam can be forgotten this year as all summer assessment will be done electronically and submitted virtually. Whilst working from your laptop with the entire internet available may be a blessing, it also means relying on something other than yourself to get work done. This is why it's important to monitor your digital performance before you begin.

Do you:

  • Anticipate any issues with your technology i.e. slow laptop, limited access to a computer, patchy internet?
  • Have the correct software you need to complete the exam?
  • Know who you can contact if there is a problem with the technology?

Accessing and submitting your assessment will require an internet connection but if you can download the paper, complete it offline, and re-upload when it's finished, this will help minimise any chances of losing your work! Yet, for some exams, such as Blackboard tests, you may need to work online, your module leader will let you know about this.

If you do experience difficulties, there will be contact details provided on your assessment for further guidance. More advice on submitting your work can also be found here.

Top Tip: Make sure you leave time at the end of the exam to submit your work correctly via the VLE otherwise it won’t count! This may sound stupid, but it's easy to forget. Open the submission portal when you begin so that when you close your browser tabs to finish the assessment, you can't miss it!


Finally, good luck and remember, it is completely normal to be nervous about exams. However, you are more than an exam result and your experiences and lessons are what will make you the person you become #WeAreNCL.

Discover more on online assessment, exam technique and assessment expectations


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