Exam prep Education

Testing times

Taking exams has never been this disorienting, due to the pandemic-related closure of educational institutions. While cancelling exams is an easy way out, universities and policymakers have to ensure that the years of hard work that students have put into their courses are not wasted or devalued. Also, employers want an assurance that the measures taken by universities during the pandemic does not lead to lower standards.

Among the many options being evaluated are online assessments. But the sudden shift will come with its own challenges, both for the institution and its students. But a little forethought can reduce the stress. Here are a few tips for students:

Prepare yourself: Before you start your online assessment, know how long you have to complete it. Does the exam start at a set time or is there a time frame within which you can take it? How many questions do you need to answer? Is there any negative marking? Is there a word limit for descriptive questions? Knowing all this in advance will help.

Manage environment and distractions: Identify a space for the online exam and de-clutter as much as possible. Use headphones, if you have questions with audio/video. Ensure your device is fully charged and that you have access to a charging station.

Manage time: Know how much time you have and plan how long you should take to complete each section/question. If the exam is a flexi-time one, consider avoiding times when your Internet is usually slow or unreliable.

Manage technology: Do you have the required technology set up? Take the test on a laptop/desktop, if possible, as a larger screen, a full keyboard and a powerful CPU are better. Use a Wi-Fi or a broadband connection to ensure stability; a 3G/4G connection can be erratic. Do verify that your mic and camera are working before you start.

Learn about remote proctoring: Most online assessment platforms will record your screen, the camera and the mic for the duration of the exam. You won’t be able to access any other application during that time and human proctors will be watching. Focus on your screen, do not use mobile phones, ensure that you have a quiet place and ensure that no one else comes close (as the camera may identify that as inappropriate).

Understand the pattern: Ask your teacher if there are sections with fixed time limits, if you can go back to revise a section, whether your answers are auto-submitted while you are writing them, or any other doubts you may have.

Manage emergencies: A computer or Internet fault may lead to being disconnected. Check ahead what you should do if this happens.

Ask for mock tests: Most universities organise mock tests for students to familiarise themselves with the technology. Ensure that you don’t miss these so that you know all the tools, techniques and the controls on the platform. This also helps remove any technical glitches due to system incompatibility.

Know the helpdesk: Last-minute technical problems are not unheard of. Know whom to contact in this situation.

Manage exam stress: Planning for your exams well in advance, a little practice on the platform, and a knowledge of the dos and don’ts will help reduce stress.

Online exams work with an assumption that all students have access to reliable Wi-Fi, dependable computers or a quiet space. Hence, moving examinations online without proper counselling and support for the students can put certain groups at a disadvantage.

However, with advance planning, some preparation and practice, most students should be able to smoothly navigate online exams.

The writer is the Founder and CEO, Schoolguru Eduserve.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 5:10:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/testing-times/article32880887.ece

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