‘Clocks for Den’ (Levy, 2009)

At the moment you might be doing online exams as part of your course, most of which will be online open book exams or other types of assessments under timed conditions. As with any other exams, managing your time is key to performing efficiently, so here’s some guidance on using your time well and a couple of other tips. 

It might be tempting to spend a lot more time on the exam than you would in normal conditions because (in most cases) you can, but as with regular exams your markers are not looking for perfection. A good idea is to start early (soon after the exam becomes available) and start off with a plan: schedule roughly how long you will spend on each section, when you will take breaks, where there are options deciding which answers you are going to answer, how long you will give to check your answers and when you plan to submit, leaving yourself plenty of time to spare before the submission deadline in case of any technical problems. If you know the format of the exam then you can prepare this plan ahead, but in any case make sure you double check the instructions and guidance given on the paper. It’s also useful to make a quick plan for the content of timed essays or longer written answers such as the main points and examples you intend to use, and you can always amend this as you write. 

For most people, writing the majority of your answers in a dedicated block (or blocks) of time will help to keep focus and concentration, especially if you have to manage or coordinate with other people in your household and negotiate space and time when you can have ideally no or limited interruptions. Again planning and agreeing these times in advance will help, and if there are circumstances beyond your control that affect how you perform in the exam, then do find out about the mitigating circumstances procedures and see if they apply to you. 

One advantage of online exams, if you have been given a longer time window, is that you can leave the assessment temporarily and come back, giving you some reflection time to think about your answers and return to check and edit them before you submit. As said above, avoid submitting close to the deadline window in case of any tech trouble, and if you do experience technical difficulties submitting then let the Student Support Office staff or your tutor know as soon as you can. 

One thing to remember is that, as with exams usually, your referencing doesn’t need to be perfect like it would for normal written coursework. Put in the details you remember, and you can double-check the spelling of surnames or the correct year of a source, but you don’t need to spend the same amount of time getting the all the other referencing details. This time is better spent showing your analysis and understanding of the topic, such as by showing how your answer relates to the relevant theory and what the significance or implications are of the issues or processes you are writing about. For more ideas about how to write good analytical answers in exams see the Skills@Library online exams webpage

Finally, as with any other exams, the usual regulations apply so be careful not to collude or discuss the exam with other people during the time that the exam is available. That being said if you do have any questions or anything is not clear do get in contact with your tutor or the Student Support Office immediately as they will be on hand to help you, and keep an eye on your uni email for any Minerva announcements and updates.


Levy, R. and S. 2009. Clocks for Den. [Online]. [Accessed 06 May 2021]. Available from: http://www.flickr.com