Learn what to expect from take-home exams and how to approach them to maximise your marks.
What are take-home exams?
Take-home exams are assessments completed by yourself at home with access to all your subject notes, texts and resources. You'll be given a set time to complete the task. The amount of time depends on the task length and complexity (e.g. a day or more). It’s essential that you complete the take-home exam yourself – you must complete it without help from others; it must be your work.
Take-home exams are more closely related to a professional real-world experience where you have access to a range of materials and are expected to analyse them, draw connections and logically present your ideas.
What can I expect?
Take-home exams don’t test your ability to memorise and recall facts. Instead, they test your ability to solve problems, synthesise information and draw conclusions.
You may be asked to:
- Solve a problem
- Analyse and interpret a set of data
- Critically analyse a case or scenario
- Present a well-evidenced argument on a topic taught in the subject
- Analyse and evaluate an issue or problem by referring to concepts introduced in the subject
How can I prepare?
Although you can’t know what task or question you’ll be set for your take-home exam, there are things you can do to prepare.
Review your notes
A take-home exam task is likely to be closely linked to what you learnt in the subject that semester. So, prepare by reviewing your readings, lecture notes and tutorial discussion topics.
Understand the marking criteria
Look for the marking criteria and assessment rubric on the LMS. This will tell you how you will be marked and what your marker expects of you in terms of the quality of your argument, use of sources and written expression. Some subjects may even provide sample papers (or parts of them) to help you understand the standard expected.
Clear your schedule
Plan to focus on your take-home exam for the duration of the assessment time. This doesn’t mean working solidly for the entire time (it’s still important to take breaks), but it does mean clearing your schedule as much as possible so that you can focus without distraction.
Understand the task instructions
Check the LMS for crucial information in the lead up to the take-home exam being set. This will mean you won’t waste precious assessment time asking questions or wondering what to do.
Essential instructions to look out for include:
- word or page count
- requirements regarding sources (e.g. the number of sources required; whether the sources should include subject readings or outside sources)
- requirements regarding referencing (e.g. which referencing style you should use)
Tips from students
- Tell the people you live with that you will be doing a take-home exam. This may sound obvious, but to be able to focus on your exam, you will need peace and quiet. The last thing you want is for your housemate or sister to be choreographing a Tik Tok or blasting music all day while you’re trying to finish your exam. It’s best to give the people you live with notice that you will be taking an exam so that if possible, your home can be quiet enough for you to focus.
- Unlike in an exam hall, you are not restricted to one table. Use your surrounding space to put up important reminders or content that you need for your exam. If you are a visual learner and love to use post-it notes, flow charts and diagrams, now is your time! The beauty of a take-home exam is that you are in the comfort of your own space and can set up your environment in a way that best supports your learning. Feel free to spread your books out, grab your favourite pillow and pour a cup of some calming tea! Your environment can impact your focus. If you have control over it, I recommend ensuring that your workspace is user-friendly, as clutter-free as possible, and comfortable.
- It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s vital to eat, sleep and rest during a take-home exam. Nobody gets an award for working for 20 hours straight. Life does not stop just because you have a take-home exam. Take regular breaks and eat well. I recommend preparing your meals in advance, so you don’t have to worry about it. Consider going for a walk in the evening or taking regular stretching breaks to reward yourself after finishing sections of your exam.
Remember, your take-home exam is an opportunity for you to demonstrate your critical analytical thinking and your understanding of the concepts introduced in the subject. Therefore, it’s vital that you complete the task yourself, in your words. This is what your tutor is looking for. This is your chance to showcase your position and all you’ve learnt in the subject during the semester.
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