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  • Writer's pictureElla

How to prepare for online exams

With exams fast approaching and the release of the exam timetables I have put together a guide on how to prepare and approach your exams, specifically tackling the online aspect of exams as they may be new to some of you, or different to how they were organised last year.

1 Revision

This might seem obvious but make sure you attend all available revision sessions. Some of these sessions may be optional, but you should make sure you use this valuable time with lecturers and seminar tutors to clarify any areas of the module you do not understand.

  • For Part II students these will be scheduled in Week 21/22 of Summer Term.

  • For Part I modules these may be held during lectures or seminars.

Create a revision timetable that works for you and stick to it. Again, this might seem obvious, but this is an essential step, especially for Part II students. In the Summer Term the lack of university contact hours means you are in charge of deciding when to revise. Ensure that you will be getting enough work done but also be sure to include breaks and time to socialise. I have linked the university's guide to time management for more help with this[1].

The advantage of recorded lectures is that these are available to watch during the revision period, so re-watching these is a helpful way to refresh yourself for modules you have not looked at in a while.

With the style of PPR exams being essays a good way of revising for these exams would be to create a number of detailed essay plans for past exam questions (or even questions you think could arise) to practise forming a well thought-out essay. This would help perfect your structure, making sure the essay remains focused, answers the question and that there is critical analysis throughout. These essay plans can also be altered depending on the questions that arise in the exam. For example, if I have numerous plans on Nietzsche and an exam question on Nietzsche vs Hegel comes up, I may be able to use this plan to help me answer the question.

For an online exam, organisation is key. As it is effectively an open-book exam, your notes should be organised well for accessibility in the exam should you need to turn back to them. I have linked the universities guide to note-taking at the end[2]. If you make notes on a computer make sure these are saved with clear titles so you know what each document contains so you can find these quickly. If you prefer to make notes by hand make sure these are well-organised with big titles so they are easy to find.

I would also recommend making a number of ‘cheat sheets’. In PPR exams knowing quotes and ideas from key thinkers, philosophers and politicians is important. A document with important quotes from Descartes, for example, could be useful to have rather than attempting to try and remember them or having to look through notes to find them.

Remember that in exams full referencing is not necessary but attribution should be given by name of that individual or work. E.g. “I think, therefore I am”, (Descartes).

2 Exams

It is important to know all the information possible about the exam before going in, and this information varies year to year.

These are the suggested word counts that the university has provided for each year group:

  • Part I modules: 750 words per question

  • PPR.2xx modules: 1,000 words per question

  • PPR.3xx modules: 1,250 words per question

Also note the difference in time difference between Part I students, 7.5 hours, and Part II students, 5 hours. Remember! This includes the time it will take to submit the exams.

Read over the information from the university about what they are looking for from these exams. Dr Christopher Macleod, Deputy Head of PPR, has said that “If you come to the exam with carefully thought-through ideas about the topics which demonstrate reading beyond the lectures, and are able to structure answers around those ideas, you'll likely do well." So make sure to read all the information regarding exams given to you by lecturers and tutors.

Another thing to be prepared for is the exam environment. The lack of an exam hall means this is your responsibility to make sure you are able to do these exams in a space you are able to work in, whether this be your home or a quiet place on campus.

I hope this guide has been useful to you and good luck with exams!


Editor at Ethica

Useful links

  • [1] Time management & organisation:

  • How to tackle exams:

  • [2] How to note-take:

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Mar 31, 2022

Thanks for the tips, these are great!

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