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5 Top Tips for Take-Home Exams

5 Top Tips for Take-Home Exams

by Newcastle University

Having to work and study in the same space as you would usually relax is not everyone's cup of tea. However, having to complete an examination from home is perhaps even more difficult.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of measures you can put in place to ensure you maximise your focus and complete any exam to the best of your ability. In fact, there are actually benefits to take-home exams.

For example, many students feel less pressure studying from a space they recognise as safe and familiar. What’s more, the extended time period and access to resources really gives you a chance to showcase what you’ve learned. 

If you’re new to examinations at home, or if you just want to ensure you’re making the most of this way of working, read on for our tricks and tips for take-home exams. 


1. Get your house in order

What are the take-home exam rules? Are you allowed to speak to others during the assessment? How do you need to submit the exam once you’re finished? These are all questions you should be asking long before you have to do the exam.

Checking off all the housekeeping components isn’t just good practical advice. In fact, knowing exactly what the exam will entail will also help dispel feelings of anxiety or uncertainty that you may be experiencing if you’ve never completed an exam at home before. 


2. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Take-home exams are also open-book exams, which may give some students a false sense of security with regards to how much preparation they need to do.

However, you should prepare for the take-home exam as you would a traditional closed-book exam. This means preparing study notes, memorising important dates and figures, and highlighting key areas of your resources that you think you will need. 

With a take-home exam, you may be surprised at how quickly the time passes. Maximise the time you’ve been given by preparing as much as possible.   


3. Choose the right space

Make sure the area where you plan to do the exam is as spacious and tidy as possible. Having tidy surroundings will help you keep a clear head. It’s also likely you will be spending a lot of time in that space, with some take-home exams ranging from 8-48 hours, so ensure it’s a comfortable space with a desk or hard surface for your computer, and a supportive chair. 

A good tip is to study and prepare for the exam in the same space you intend on taking it. Studies have proven that students are better able to recall information when they’re in the same space that they originally learned it.

4. Schedule your time carefully

Are you a night owl or an early riser? It’s okay if you find you’re more productive in the morning and tail off in the afternoon. Or, perhaps you find you procrastinate all day until night time comes? 

We all work differently, and there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time to be productive. 

Schedule time to complete your exam when you find you’re the most focussed. Make sure those who live with you or friends and family know that during this period, you’re not contactable. Setting boundaries and encouraging those close to you to respect your test as they would a normal exam is crucial to minimise distractions. 

However, if you’re working on a particularly long exam, remember there’s an expectation that you will take breaks. So don't feel pressured to stay glued to your chair! Furthermore, whether you choose some fresh air, a healthy snack or a quick scroll through Instagram for your break, make sure you’re always hydrating throughout to keep your mind sharp. 


5. Edit, edit, then edit again!

So many of us are guilty of closing down our computers and calling it a day the moment we finish our conclusion.

However, as you’re completing the exam at home, the marker will expect a lot more structure and coherence to your essay than if you were completing a traditional exam. As such, make sure your essay is top notch by allocating plenty of time to edit and proof. You can do this by moving parts around, reading sentences aloud to yourself and cutting out sections that don’t contribute to your argument. 

Also, try not to be tempted to shoehorn every piece of information you know into the exam. True understanding of a subject comes from being selective with what you include, and ensuring all information points to the same resolution. 

If you’re unsure if you should keep a point or section in your essay, ask yourself ‘how does this add to my argument?’ 

If the answer isn’t immediately obvious, or you find you have to justify it to yourself, then perhaps you should take it out. 


We hope you have found our blog post on take-home exams useful. If you feel you’re procrastinating more than usual or you’re struggling to focus, we’ve started collating resources to help you. Read our blog on adjusting to change in the wake of COVID-19, which may be a handy resource if you’re not feeling yourself right now. 
Alternatively, if you're finding isolation has limited your access to study materials, refer to our guide on where to find free study resources when you can't get to a library.