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Getting back into an exam routine

Here are some of my top tips for completing online open-book exams.

I don’t know about you, but the minute that the calendar goes from April into May, everything changes. May is famously unpopular for the return of everyone’s least favourite season – exam season. These next couple of weeks, I have made it my mission to try and get back into sort some of routine to be ready for exams, and I thought I would share with you the best ways I have found to do just that!


You still need to prepare well for open book exams. Revision is key and you won’t be able to cram everything into 7 days. Make a list of the main topics in your module, go through the reading lists – starting with the broader literature. Go through review papers, overview articles that give you a broader view first and then go into the specifics.

Study the exam structure

Ask yourself - What type of questions are going to be asked? How many are there? How are you going to split the time? What is it asking from you?

It sounds silly but most of the advice lecturers give is to make sure you read the questions carefully, and that you understand what you are being asked. They tell you to underline the key terms and make sure you stay on topic.

Use the facilities

We can now go back into Uni! Recently, I have found relief in group study rooms. Studying with course mates is a great way to get in the exam headspace. Sharing notes, references and panic are all vital aspects of getting yourself ready for exams and the study spaces are brilliant for all these things. Also, course discussion boards have a lot of useful information on there so use them as much as you can.

Practice questions

I know that reading notes, rereading notes and rewriting notes is a tried and tested way to revise but studies have shown there is actually very little benefit in this. * Practice is critical when it comes to retrieving information from your long-term memory – and even though we have open book exams, it’s still the best way to learn! Also, by practising questions you improve your exam technique, articulation skills and general essay writing proficiency so there really is no downside. There are a lot of past papers available on Blackboard for your courses, so that’s a good place to start.

Read up

Before finding out what your exam questions are, prepare yourself by going through your course content, summarising the main modules, themes, and topics, and then finding comprehensive and strong references for each one of them. For open book exams you can spend hours even days looking for the best references, so use your time wisely and find what you need before you’ll need it. Remember, try not to find references that suit your arguments, instead shape your arguments from your reading.

Best of luck to you all and I’ll see you on the other side!

*Butler, Andrew C. “The Critical Role of Retrieval Practice in Long-Term Retention.” Trends in cognitive sciences. 15.1 (2011): 20–27. Web.