Have you ever studied for a test only to forget the material when you sat down to take it? Or have you felt good about a test only to discover later that your score was lower than you hoped? If either of these experiences sound familiar to you, you’re not alone! Students everywhere struggle with taking tests. While online tests present some specific challenges, there are ways to succeed in online test-taking.
Approach Your Coursework with the Test in Mind
When you’re taking a self-paced online class, it can be tempting to work through material quickly, especially if you’re comfortable with a topic. However, it’s important to approach the course with the final exam in mind. Try the strategies below to increase your chance of acing your online test:
- Read for comprehension. StraighterLine’s online textbooks are a fantastic resource, but our brains don’t always process complex information that we read on a screen as well when we read it in print (Singer and Alexander 2017). Luckily, you can improve your screen-based reading retention. First, take advantage of highlighting or note-taking functions your e-text offers. Next, try using a screen reader—listening to someone read along with you will help you process the information both visually and auditory. Finally, make note of words you don’t understand and look up the definitions to ensure that you won’t encounter any unfamiliar concepts during your exam.
- Refine your note-taking skills. Though e-texts have note-taking functions, you might try taking notes by hand. A 2014 study showed that, while students who took notes on a computer wrote more during lectures, they remembered less later than those who wrote by hand (Mueller and Oppenheimer). Try generating an outline from lessons or readings by hand, or if you want more structure, try the Cornell note-taking system.
- Take practice seriously. Every StraighterLine course offers practice exercises, so give these your best effort. For example, StraighterLine’s statistics course offers helpful “Learn by Doing” and “Did I Get This?” activities, which you can use as a self-check before exams. Spending time on these activities can help prepare you for the problems you’ll encounter on your test. Additionally, don’t just focus on remembering facts—make sure you understand how to apply knowledge, too. Many tests will ask questions that require you to remember processes and apply theories.
Online Tests: What to Expect
Once you’ve mastered the course material, it’s time to schedule your exam session with ProctorU, a free* online proctoring service. Though proctoring might seem inconvenient, it’s an integral part of why StraighterLine’s courses transfer to many institutions. Because proctoring involves identity verification and monitoring of the testing environment, colleges feel confident that StraighterLine students have met the course objectives and are ready for courses at their target school.
When choosing a date and time, think about when you’re most likely to feel focused. It’s best to take your test in a quiet, uncluttered place where you and the proctor won’t be distracted. When it’s time to take your test, you’ll log in to ProctorU’s system and connect with a proctor via webcam. The proctor will guide you through setup (including checking your room, helping you access the test, and confirming details about permitted resources and time limits), and you’ll be ready to begin.
Online Testing Tips
Most of StraighterLine’s tests are multiple choice, so try the ideas below to help you stay calm and focused.
- Read the entire question first, and then try to answer the question without looking at the choices. If your answer matches one below, it’s likely to be correct.
- Don’t spend too long on any one question at first. With timed tests, it’s important to see all of the questions; otherwise, you might miss the opportunity to give a correct answer. When you encounter a question you’re unsure about, write the number down and return to it later.
- Eliminate wrong or unlikely answers. If you can eliminate any answers that you know are wrong or unlikely, you increase your chances of choosing the correct answer.
Follow the tips above, and you’ll be passing your online tests in no time. Happy studying!
*Using ProctorU is free as long as you schedule your test 72 hours in advance. (You can schedule a session in less than 72 hours for a fee.)
Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological science, 25(6), 1159-1168.
Singer, L. M., & Alexander, P. A. (2017). Reading on paper and digitally: What the past decades of empirical research reveal. Review of educational research, 87 (6), 1007-1041.-1041.
Anissa Sorokin, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English and Writing Program Administrator at Stevenson University near Baltimore, Maryland. Anissa’s interdisciplinary background and extensive experience teaching research, writing, and study skills help her demystify college expectations for students online and in her classroom.