Exams 2020: Our Top Tips

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So with coursework season coming to an end, you’ll no doubt be gearing up and getting ready to study for exams this year. With learning online, finding the rhythm can be difficult but we thought it’d be worth going over some of the advantages and tips at your disposal so you can ace your exams!


Watt’s the benefit? 

Flexible hours and studying at your own pace

It’s important to remember you’re more in control of your learning this year and there’s huge value in that – between pre-or-post lecture materials, recordings of live sessions and more time to digest everything, you can take an extra moment to go over key concepts or find extra studies to cite in your work.

You also have the freedom to fit in your studies completely around your commitments this year.

Less distractions when you need it

Virtual lectures mean you'll probably be more attentive without the distraction of sitting next to a friend, although it can be helpful to have a group chat alongside the lecture.

If you’re watching materials after live sessions, all the better – if you miss a word because the postie comes or your microwave goes off, you can catch it all again when you need!

It’s your own space!

Even with the extra study spaces around campus, at the height of exam time, spaces still get limited. Fortunately, studying at home means you don't have to fight for a computer on campus or the last copy of a book.

As there is limited space with social distancing restrictions, a lot of extra materials will be online so there's no need to worry about the textbook you need being out on loan. What's more you can study from the comfort of your own surroundings!

You'll save money

Being homebound means you'll save cash on coffees, on-campus lunches and after lecture drinks. If you use public transport to get to and from campus you'll save here too. 


To that end, we want you to USE those benefits – here’s a few tips we have for you below:

Studying online: 

Engage with your learning 

Just because all your lectures are recorded doesn’t mean you don’t have to actually study the material – you still need to engage with the topics, make notes and get an understanding for what you’re covering!

Keep to what methods of studying suit you best and be sure to cover as much of the reading as you can!

Keeping in touch

With everything happening from a distance this year, keeping in touch is more important than ever.

With coursemates

Whether it’s on Microsoft Teams, Messenger or WhatsApp, setting up groups to bounce ideas off one another and keep in touch is so important.

Your coursemates will have similar questions and experiences as you, and will have different takes on issues that you might not have thought about.

If you’re the more productive type, you can also set up study groups to work through readings or assignments and keep each other focussed! Just be sure to stick to the topic – tagging each other in memes and catching up on Netflix can come later(ish)!

With staff

Catching your lecturers or personal tutor in the hallway, café or office might not be an option this year but you should still stay in touch!

It’s what they’re there for! So drop them an email with questions, letting them know about good news or any worries you might have - if you need it, your personal tutor will know how you can find any help; and your lecturers can brush up any issues with questions around the materials you cover, and papers you can use!

It’s worth noting, your lecturers are probably under immense pressure to prepare lectures for online delivery so be understanding and give them time to get back to you.? 

Take regular breaks 

This is common advice, but it is now more important than ever when you are studying in your living space; little and often is key. You don’t have to stick to a 9-5 schedule if that doesn’t work for you, but identify the hours you are most productive and centre your workday around that.? 

Taking regular breaks during the day keeps your mind fresh and is one of the easiest ways to ensure you don’t burn out. Step away from your laptop every hour or so and do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading a chapter of your book, watching a little TV or playing a game. Try to get out at least once a day for a walk (if you are able to) and give yourself things to look forward to each day.? 

It is also important to have a clear cut-off point when you finish studying for the day. Pack up your study materials at the end of the day if you can, so that you can relax properly for the evening without your books staring at you.?Remember that just because you’re taking a break doesn’t mean you’re not doing enough! 


Staying motivated: 

Get rid of distractions

Distractions can be hardest to fight while at home, but it’s not impossible. Start by turning off notifications for apps, removing them from your home screen, or even leave your phone out of sight. But those are just from your phone – a bird on your window, a loud bus going by, or your flatmates are all just as likely to distract you. Take some steps to make yourself focus and shut out distractions.
Okay, so you’ve picked up the phone…but it was Dominoes texting – no biggie. How many times have you then mindlessly gone into Instagram or TikTok? That’s why you should track your digital wellbeing, the results might shock you. Put certain activities on hold, like spending too many hours on social media, or late nights socialising that can hurt your productivity the next day. This way you can free up time and use it more wisely. 

Reward your accomplishments?

Because you’re worth it! Studying non-stop without a break or reward will wreak havoc on your?wellbeing, as well as your ability to focus.? 
The human brain can only concentrate for so long. Take breaks and switch off with ways that don’t require much thinking. Reply to friends, make some food or go for a run. The more mind-numbing the better. 

Use rewards as motivation. You’re working hard so don’t forget to recognise your progress and remind yourself of what you’re working towards too. 


On your exam day

Regardless of whether this exam diet will be your first at University ever or whether these are your first take-home exams, here’s a quick guide on what to expect and how to prepare.

What to expect

For most students, you’ll be given 24 hours to return your answers – it’s important to know however that you’re not expected to write for all that time. At a maximum, you’re expected to spend 3-4 hours on writing, the extra time is to help you manage the exam on the day around any other commitments you have, internet issues, and anything else that might come up. So don’t spend all day slaving over the last few phrases of your answer, especially if you have exams soon after one another.

Some students might only be given 2 hours of dedicated writing time and some extra time allowed for downloading and uploading answers – your School will let you know what your exam conditions will be so if you’re facing the extra time-pressure more like a typical exam, you know what to prepare anyway.

In either case, ahead of the exam, run a mock-trial of downloading and uploading your answer to make sure you know which menus and links to use – it’s just the same as knowing which seat you’re allotted or which room to attend on the day.


How to prepare

The exam conditions are open book so spend time making your notes navigable and digestible – you’ll be able to go over key concepts, find studies and touch on topics you might not have otherwise remembered under typical exam conditions. Use this to your advantage, spend time on understanding and organising rather than pure rote memory.

There will be a set format for you to return the exam document – you’ll need to know your student number (the one beginning “H”), and how to properly name a document. You also might need to know your module’s code or any other abbreviation that the University uses internally. You can find the codes in your course handbooks, and how to format your word document in the exam guidance published by the University.


For a full breakdown, including your exam timetable, check out the University’s information page here.

As always, if you run into any issues or questions you can contact us on @HWUnion and the Advice Hub on advice.hub@hw.ac.uk.

Best of luck while you prepare for your exams, we know you’ll do great!

Big love

HWUnion x



William Cox
10:55am on 27 Nov 20 2nd heading: should be "fewer distractions"
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