How to prepare for an online test
February 17, 2021

Taking a test can be stressful in the best of times, but there are some additional things to consider when taking a test remotely. Our student advising team has prepared some tips to help you do well on your next online test or exam. First, check out their advice to ensure you’re prepared for a test in general, and then review their recommendations to set yourself up for success for online tests.

Stoplight strategy

The stoplight strategy is a great technique to plan your studying and organize yourself. Go over the test review (if provided), looking at the chapters/concepts you’re going to be tested on and then highlight or mark the material with red, yellow or green.

RED: What you need to learn. These are concepts that if you were tested right now, you wouldn’t know the answer. Spend most of your time studying this material (approximately 50 per cent). Study first.

YELLOW: What you sort of know. If you were tested right now, you might get partial marks. Spend a little less time on this material (approximately 25 per cent or a little more). Study second.

GREENWhat you know well. If you were tested right now, you would know the answer. Don’t spend as much time on this material (approximately 25 per cent or a little less). Study last.

A traffic light

Night before/day of prep

Whether your test is in person or online, your preparation should be similar:  

  • get a good night’s sleep
  • log in/arrive early
  • check in on your breathing
  • positive self-talk
  • keep things in perspective
  • positive visualizations
Young woman lying in bed sleeping

Online test considerations

Now, let’s look at some added preparations and actions you can take to smoothly complete your online test

  • Have a comfortable set up (desk, chair, good lighting).
  • Use ear phones or noise cancelling headphones, if needed.
  • Plug in your laptop or have a power source nearby for your device (make sure you have the correct power cord).
  • Ensure you have a strong internet connection (test it ahead of time).
  • Keep a pad of paper and pen/pencil handy.
  • If you’re allowed to use materials like textbooks, calculator, notes, etc., have them organized and accessible.
  • Remove any distractions (cell phone, gaming system, etc.).
  • Let your family/friends/roommates/pets know you’re completing a test and that you need some quiet (if possible).

What to do if something goes wrong during an online test

Now, say something goes wrong. You lose your internet connection. Your computer crashes. Take a breath, note the time, the question you were on or section you were completing (take a screen shot if possible) and reach out to your faculty to ask what to do next ASAP.

A great pre-test idea is to ask your faculty what to do if something goes wrong during a test. They may have specific instructions for how they would like you to proceed.

How to manage expectations BEFORE your test

There is nothing more stressful then opening up a test and it not being what you expected. Short answers instead of multiple choice, a chapter you haven’t reviewed, or that you had the wrong timing and missed the test altogether. Manage your expectations ahead of time to help avoid this.

Can you answer the following questions about your upcoming test/quiz? If you can’t, reach out to your faculty ahead of the exam to ensure you know what to expect.

  • What types of questions can I expect on the exam (e.g. multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc.)?
  • What materials, tools and technology am I allowed to have and use while writing the exam (e.g. textbook, slide decks, my notes, Google, etc.)?
  • Is the exam scheduled to start and/or end at a certain time?
  • Does my time zone affect the exam start/end time?
  • How much time will I have to complete the exam?
  • Will my exam be proctored? What does that mean for me?
  • What chapters, readings, topics will the exam cover?
  • Where/how do I access the exam?
  • What do I do if I run into technical issues?
Hands holding a highlighter, writing on a sheet of paper

Student Services are here to help (remotely)!

Your student advisor can help you build both academic and personal resilience. To book an appointment, go to the home page on the student portal. In the top left corner you’ll see the name of your advisor and the times he/she is available to meet. Alternatively, you can email us and your advisor will get back to you as soon as possible.

Be sure to check out all student services that are available to you. Find out how to contact each service and their remote hours of operation.