Take home exams can sound daunting, having to take time out of your designated study days to plan and write an exam can be stressful; however, with the right tools you will be able to master the art of take home exams!
There are many different ways to review your notes to make sense of the information that was provided to you throughout the term. Burns and Sinfield (2004) state that “…unless we revise material that we encounter we forget 98% after just three weeks” (p. 160). A term is twelve weeks long; therefore, in order to remember the information well once you get to the exam, you should review your notes every week or every month.
You may be thinking that take home exams are easier than in-class or written exams because in most cases you can use your lecture and reading notes from the term. However, take home exams usually require more than just regurgitating information.
Therefore, you should study before you receive the take home exam, which will allow you to have a grasp on the main concepts in the course and any important information from the readings. Then, when it comes time to writing the exam, it will be easier to write because you already know where the information is, and you can retrieve some of the information from memory. Actively reviewing your notes will also give you an opportunity to test yourself on your knowledge to make sure you understand the information well. This ensures that you are using the information in a meaningful way, which will increase your ability to recall the information later during the take home exam.
The Take Home Essay
One common type of take home exam is an essay. Essays require you to examine all of the big concepts and important themes that have been discussed throughout the term, and synthesize that information into a coherent argument.
What to Focus On:
- Major concepts, ideas, and terms.
- Practice explaining, analyzing, applying those concepts and ideas.
- How do the ideas in texts and notes relate to each other?
- Anticipate possible test questions.
- Write short essay outlines to practice ahead of time (thesis statement, supporting points, evidence).
Other Tips and Tricks:
- Form a study or writing schedule for the exam in order to schedule small chunks of uninterrupted time to focus on writing the exam.
- Eliminate ALL distractions- turn off your phone, block Facebook and Twitter, close your door to eliminate disruptions (electronics will survive without you).
- Write the exam in a quiet and secluded study space, whichever space works for you in your home.
- Review the instructions for the exam two or three times before you start planning and writing to ensure that you understand what is being asked. Make sure that you are addressing everything that is being asked in the question. In order to check that you are doing this, try to follow the order of the steps in the question in the same order in your writing.
- What sources are you allowed using, if any? If the instructions say to quote directly from the article, you should try to quote directly from the article, citing any information that is not your own.
- If you do use direct quotations, ensure that you’re explaining them and linking them back to the main ideas of your exam.
- When you are done writing, revise and edit multiple times, if you have time, before you submit the final copy.
- In an in-class exam, you have maximum two hours to write the exam, and you don’t have a lot of time for revision. Whereas at home, you have the time to revise your exam thoroughly; you might as well use it!
- As with in-class exams, on take home exams you cannot ask others for help. If you have questions let your professor know.
- Unfortunately the Centre for Student Success cannot help you with take home exams without permission, as this would constitute as academic dishonesty. The Centre for Student Success can only help if you have WRITTEN permission from your professor. However, you can stop in to ask generalized questions.
Best of luck with your exams!
Burns, T., & Sinfield, S. (2004). How to promote effective revision and exam techniques. In Teaching, Learning & Study Skills: A Guide for Tutors. (pp. 156-170). London: A SAGE Publications Company.