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Write exams like a pro

Write exams like a pro

You've worked hard, you know your stuff, now ace that test with these tips from SAIT’s own masters of test taking in Academic Coaching

1. A few weeks before your exam

  • Exams vary. Always double check the details of your exam with your instructor, including: date, time (plus time zone), format and topics covered.
  • Find out what materials are allowed in the exam — is it open or closed book?
  • Start your review early and create a study plan. Map out topics from highest to lowest priority and set out a study schedule. Remember to space out your study sessions and review frequently.
  • Use your learning objectives to create a study guide that will summarize important content and organize topics your own way.
  • Use active study strategies to learn and memorize your content. Test yourself, recite out loud, teach it, visualize it and work with a study buddy.

2. Before you start

    • Take a deep breath. 
    • Get the directions down — listen/read carefully.
    • Scan the whole exam and get a feel for the pace you'll need to finish strong. 
    • Jot down any memory devices or formulas you know you'll need and might forget.  


3. When you're ready

  • Start with the easiest and shortest questions.
  • Next, move to the longer or more challenging questions with answers you know or can get to with a bit more time.
  • Finally, stop at the unanswered questions. If you're stuck, look for hints in other test questions. Ask yourself what you do know and start there. If all else fails, use your best guess. 

Make sure you know what the question is asking and answer accordingly.

4. How to succeed at each exam type

Pro tips for online exams

  • Study and prepare as you would any other exam.
  • If you're writing your exam from home, try to choose a place to write that is comfortable, familiar and distraction free. This can reduce stress and test-related anxiety and improve your ability to focus. Put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and inform family and roommates you'll be writing an exam.
  • Ask your instructor for details about the exam and read the exam instructions. Know how to set up your space and if there are specific rules for the exam.
  • If you encounter technical difficulties, inform your instructor as soon as possible. 

💻 Learn more about online proctoring software and exams and review this checklist for online exams before you start.

Pro tips for open book exams

It can be tempting to rely on books, notes or cheat sheets, but it’s important to prepare in advance for an open book exam as you would for any other exam. 

Time on these exams can be limited and looking through notes or a book to answer questions during a test can take a lot of time.  

Pro tips for multiple choice exams

  • Produce your own answer first and look for it in the list.
  • Use a process of elimination to choose the best answer.
  • Change your answer only when you're sure.
  • Read the question with each answer, cover the rest of the answers. Is the sentence right or are you not sure? Move to the next option and repeat.

Pro tips for true/false tests

  • If any part of the question is false, the answer is false.
  • True means always true, 100% of the time — qualifiers such as "always", "all" and "never", usually indicate a false statement. 
  • Your first response is usually your best.

Pro tips for essay tests

  • Start with the easiest question and make sure you understand it — if you don't, ask. 
  • Before you start writing, make an outline — this will keep you on track and capture your ideas up front. 
  • Use your most important points first — and get to the point. 
  • Pace yourself based on how much each question is worth and the time allotted. 
  • If you get stuck, move on — another question may trigger the answer. 
  • Write something for each question — point form is better than nothing. 
  • Check that you've answered all parts of the question, then review your answers for grammar and clarity.


5. After the exam

  • Relax knowing you did your best!
  • Over the next few days, check Brightspace for your grade and contact your instructor with any questions or concerns.
  • Reflect — what went well? Is there anything you’ll do differently next time?


6. Get more support

🛎️ Support: Get more helpful advice on how to write exams like a pro — connect with a coach

👉 Up next, take time to make sure you understand how your grades work.

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