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Revision and Exams

Boost your exam revision and explore strategies for essay exams, online tests and MCQs with our online study guide and resources.

Information on your exams

Please check the University guidance on exams and assessment for up-to-date information on the format of your exams in 2021/22. You should also check Blackboard for updates and announcements and read any emails from your course regarding examinations.

This guide covers the key aspects of revising and sitting exams at university. If you're new to online exams, the important thing to remember is that most online exams will be similar to those you would to sit in person in terms of their content.

Online exam papers will take place in Blackboard so its worth familiarising yourself with where your modules and exam content will be ahead of time. 

Your personal exam timetable is available now on MyTimetable.


Preparing for online exams

  • Create templates for your answers

Find out how the paper will be structured - how long will the questions be? Can you answer in short sentences or will you need to write a full essay? Then, create a template or outline for your answers that you can follow in the exam, particularly for essays.

Download our essay planning template for a suggested structure.
  • Organise your materials

Spend some time getting organised before the exam so that all of your notes and work are at your fingertips during the exam period.

Download or bookmark lecture content in Blackboard and update file and folder names so that they match the content. Online exams are similar in many ways to open book exams: you do not need to memorise large amounts of information, but should be able to quickly navigate your notes and identify key content to include in your answer.

If you prefer to work on paper, create a contents page and meaningful order to your notes. This will also help you to feel organised ahead of the exam and to fill any gaps in your notes in advance of the paper.


  • Create crib-sheets or quick look guides

    Before the exam, create summary sheets that act like a table on contents for your module. They should give an overview of the main themes and key pieces of reading related to each topic from your module. You should also write a quick summary for each of these to remind you of the author's key points or argument. For example:

Exam 1 - Education, Teaching and Learning


Key texts

Quick summary


Reflective learning

Entwhistle, 2001

Moon, 1999

  • Deep learning vs surface learning
  • Reflection leads to empowerment

Week 1

Role of the teacher

Collison et. al., 2000

Cosenza, 2015

Ruskovaala and Pihkala, 2015

Kresjler, 2004

Freire, 1970

  • Teachers as facilitators, 6 voices

  • Teachers as leaders

  • Teachers as entrepreneur

  • Issues with teacher as facilitator
  • Teacher as oppressor

Week 2

The curriculum

Marsh and Willis, 2007

Mansell, 2013

Li and Ni, 2011

  • Three ‘levels’ of curriculum: Planned, enacted, experienced

  • Curriculum and politics
  • School Based Curriculum Development (SBCD)

Week 3


You can use this approach to map out whole modules, or you can break down individual topics into key ideas, themes and arguments - each attached to references and notes from your reading and work on the module.

  • Identify your top pieces of reading for each key topic

Create a ‘ready to go’ list of references for your exams. This will also save time with referencing on the day of the exam.

Reference Methods Sample Key findings Weaknesses of the study
Li and Ni, 2011 Survey distributed in primary schools in Shanghai-  51 questions, mixture of formats, all quantitative data. 72 surveys completed (141 distributed) - 93% female, 7% male; 55% 10+ years teaching experience.

Teachers confident using IT in classroom - 80% said they were 'experts'.

81% said technology had a positive impact of their teaching.

Only 24% felt part of decision making about use of technology in their school.

Uneven gender split in the sample - does this reflect the gender of teachers nationally?

Cannot apply findings to other districts in China as Shanghai is unique in terms of economic and educational context.

Paper 2

Download a Word version of this appraisal grid to use in your revision.

More ideas on how to create summary sheets:

  • Use Sketchnotes to combine icons and images with key information.
  • Mindmaps can be a useful way to capture key topics on one 'at-a-glance' page. These could be handwritten or created using Mindview, a software available through AppsAnywhere.
  • Look at examples of 'crib sheet' or 'cheat sheets' online for ideas on how to condense your content. You can also use online templates to create your own.
  • Check where everything is in Blackboard

    Check you know where the assessment information is in Blackboard. You will need to know where the exam documents are saved and where you will need to submit your answer papers on your module site. Watch this short video to remind yourself of how to find your modules in Blackboard.
  • Plan how you will use your time during the online exam

    The exam is designed to give you time to complete the exam paper around other responsibilities. If you can't find a quiet space to focus at home, you can book a PC in the library.

Tips for exam day

Here are our tops tips for the day of the online exam:

  • Allow yourself time to fully understand the question/task. 

  • Concentrate on writing your answers and resist the urge to do further reading during the exam window. 

  • Write a plan before you start writing your answer (this will be time well spent!) 

  • Work at times of the day where you can concentrate without interruption - short, focused bursts of around 30 minutes work well.  

  • Stick to simple formatting - use a clear font (Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman), size 12pt and normal margins. 

  • In normal circumstances, you would only have 2-3 hours for the paper; the questions are designed to be answered to a high standard in a short space of time.

  • Use subheadings if you would normally include them in coursework. 

  • Reference accurately using standard APA format unless instructed otherwise. (You will not be expected to attach a reference list/bibliography at the end of the paper.) Use the Library's online guide to APA referencing to help get this right on the day.

  • Leave time to proofread your work - reading aloud or using text-to-speech software is a good way of spotting grammatical errors or incomplete sentences. 

  • Ensure you are familiar with key pieces of literature and have some versatile examples suitable for several answers. 

Support from the Skills Centre

Looking for sessions and tutorials on this topic? You can view our full webinar timetable on our website, or view up-to-date availability for 1-1 appointments in UniHub Appointments and Events

If you have a quick question for one of our Academic Skills Advisors, Librarians, or Maths and Stats experts, why no come along to an online drop-in. The drop-ins happen every Wednesday from 4-6pm and there's no need to book - just follow the link to join the virtual waiting room.