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It’s about that time of the semester again – final exams. These two words can stir up various emotions for different people. Final exams may make you excited that the semester is over and winter break is on the horizon. It may be your last chance to boost your grade up from a B+ to an A. If you are like me, however, final exams mean one thing: stress. With online classes being more prevalent because of COVID-19, even more anxiety can be present due to the unknown of taking an online exam. For many of us, especially freshmen, this is the first time we are taking an online exam. To make this unchartered territory a little less daunting, I’ve created a guide to conquering the online exam. I am confident that you will feel more prepared and relaxed on exam day if you follow this guide. 

  1. Write down the due date and time of your final in a planner or calendar

I find it helpful to visualize all my finals on a calendar in order to understand how much time in advance I have to prepare and study. Additionally, it is nice to see which days you have multiple finals and which days you can rest and study. For exams that are done in Canvas, check the exam schedule to see the start and finish times of the final. For finals that are papers or projects, check Canvas to see the exact due date and time. 

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  1. Write down the format of your final.

Final exams can be in various formats: exam on Canvas, paper, or project. It is important to write down the format because there needs to be enough time to properly prepare for the final. For exams on Canvas, space out your studying a week to 10 days in advance. For final papers, give yourself enough time based on the length and research involved to efficiently write it. The same can be said for solo projects. However, if it is a group project, reach out through email to group members in advance. Try to get their numbers so you can form a group text to ensure roles are evenly distributed and progress is being made in the days up to the final due date.

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  1. While preparing, studying, writing, or taking your final, make sure you are in a quiet room, free of distractions.

This tip is very important to online exam success. Students that don’t enjoy online classes or test-taking often complain that they have difficulty focusing. Acknowledging the fact that most of us will be taking finals at home, I understand that it can be difficult to find a quiet space with the distractions from siblings, parents, and pets. Remind your family to be quiet during your final exam time. I find that I can focus in my bedroom, with my door shut, and a fan blowing to block outside noise. If your house isn’t free of distractions, try finding a spot at your local library

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  1. Turn off your phone and put all devices on Do Not Disturb.

I find that my biggest distraction is my phone. If I have it turned over and on DND, I will not even be tempted to check it when it vibrates or chimes. Furthermore, put your laptop’s calls and texts on DND if they are connected to your laptop so your focus is not interrupted while working. 

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  1. Charge your laptop overnight and make sure you have a strong WiFi connection. 

A fully charged laptop ensures that you will have enough browsing time to take a potentially two-hour exam. Having your charger at all times nearby is an extra safety measure. Additionally, a stable WiFi connection, with enough bandwidth, guarantees that work will be smoothly saved and submitted. 

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  1. If your professor requires a  Lockdown Browser, test the app and make sure it is downloaded and running properly. 

Most of my professors require a Lockdown Browser during quiz and exam taking. When I installed it at the beginning of the semester, I had some technical difficulties while first using it.  The day before the final, test out the Lockdown Browser to make sure it is running properly and in your dock.

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  1. Throughout finals week, make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating well, and drinking enough water.

Taking care of your body is so important to positive test performance. Experts say that young adults should get 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Foods such as protein, fruits and veggies, complex carbohydrates, and plenty of water are considered “brain food.” 

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On HawcHill’s Instagram story, we conducted a poll that asked, “ Which environment do you think is harder to take an exam in?” Much to our surprise, 57% of students found that taking an exam in-person is harder. With students becoming more acclimated to online classes, these poll results made us realize there might be a shift in the way we learn and take exams. We found that online exams have many benefits. Some of these include immediate test results, the comfort of your own environment, and the absence of extra needed materials, such as number two pencils, pens, or a calculator. Whether you are taking an online or in-person exam, it is important to remember that this time is only temporary. Take a deep breath and always remember to think positively!