Exam Tips

After having your head buried in subject revision, it is easy to overlook some basic things in preparation for exam day. Here are a few things that we think are important to keep in mind to survive your end of semester exams. 

On this page you'll find information about: 

What do I need to be across when it comes to exams? 

The University reckons everything you need to know about your exams is here

While saying that page contains EVERYTHING you need to know may be overstating it a tad – there is a lot of important info there – so make sure you read through it thoroughly, and then read it again. We expect this info to be updated and added to from time to time – so we won’t replicate it here. We will, however, try to give you some hints on pulling it all together so that if anything goes wrong, you have a plan. 

There’s no way the University Exam FAQs or indeed the UMSU Advocacy Service can answer every question burning a hole in your stress-riddled brain – but most likely someone can. That person is your subject coordinator – who will have the details about the way the exam is meant to run, reassure you that you can take a toilet break without facing a misconduct allegation, or give you access to a practice exam. If your subject coordinator can’t or won’t answer your questions – ask Stop1. If you still have trouble getting a straight or satisfactory answer – let us know and we’ll see if we can get you a clear response.  

Below are tips for exams. We have entered a strange new world in 2024 where — like Schrödinger's cat — exams can be either in person or online and in some cases, you won't know until you open the exam timeable. We have tried to account for both modes of ssessment.

My exam timetable is daunting, what do I need to know? 

Exam timetables can be tricky at the best of times. If you are completing sit down on-site invigilated exams, you can (usually) tell pretty easily if there’s a clash or where things might overlap in problematic ways. 

With online assessment, things can be more gnarley. You might have a combo of “strict time limit” exams, strict time limit (but within a broader time limit window) exams, and broad time limit exams (aka take-home exams over multiple days). This creates all sorts of potential for overlaps and clashes, and also means you really need to keep your wits about how well organised you are ahead of time. 

Our best tip here is to make sure you have a clear schedule set out of all the assessments in your timetable on one calendar. You need to see how they fit together. You will also need to check regularly for changes right up until the exam takes place. 

My timetable clashes, what do I do? 

OK – so you’ve set it all out on a calendar, and well...things just don’t add up. If you think there are going to be clashes or significant overlaps in your exams, if you are overseas and the exam starts at midnight your time, or you will be on a flight because the semester has been pushed back – first check if it’s a centrally organised exam or a departmental one here. If the subject doesn’t show up in the timetable – it will be a departmental exam and you need to contact your subject coordinator to let them know of any problems. For all centrally organised exams (and where you have contacted the subject coordinator and remain unhappy, or get no response) then you need to contact Stop 1 to let them know. 

The University is distinguishing between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” exam clashes. Yes, that sounds crazy – but that’s how it is. If you raise an exam issue, and you don’t get a satisfactory resolution, make sure you keep copies of your correspondence and any other evidence of the problem, and you might want to seek advice from us later if you think it has caused you a manifest disadvantage. 

Online Exams - What happens if my computer crashes? 

So your doing your assessment online, what if tech fails? What if the internet goes down or the lights go out and the electricity goes off or your computer decides to bork in the middle of everything? 

Make sure you are properly set up well in advance of your exam day. Do the practice exams offered (contact your subject coordinator to get them to set one up), try creating a test run situation so you feel more familiar with the whole set up. Get tech support details handy – bookmark the URL of your NBN and electricity provider’s support page, bookmark the Stop 1 chat page, UMSU Advocacy contact form, make sure your laptop battery is fully charged. Set up phone tethering ready to go if you need it. 

The Uni’s advice here is pretty underwhelming. Just like an episode of the IT Crowd, but it’s not a parody. Yes, try turning the computer off and on again. Restart your router…still no good? Why don’t you sit in the telephone queue for your NBN provider’s helpdesk while you aren’t doing your exam. Is that the sound of a clock ticking or is it you having a heart attack? Can I even use a phone to call someone during my exam? 

OK, joking aside – this is the biggest fear most students have expressed – tech failure. The reality is that a complete techno meltdown is fairly unlikely for the majority of people – but things will definitely go wrong for some of you – from catestrophic fails like the power and internet and mobile phone networks crashing simultaenously to minor glitches which still stuff you up in a stressful time limited context. 

We don’t have all the answers for what to do at the time to fix it – but what we can tell you is – if something goes wrong – try to get a record of it. Take a photo of the blue screen or spinning ball of death, go online to those bookmarked support pages where you can get a screen shot of the NBN or electricity provider announcing an outage in your area. Get someone in your household to check things that aren’t working – you might be too stressed to figure it out – or else they may be able to provide testimony that it did indeed screw up irreparably. 

So if it all goes south – try to keep calm. Document things as best you can. Carry on. Contact us. At the very least we will log your contact and be able to attest to the fact you reported a problem at the time. 

Online Exams - What do I do to apply for Special Consideration (Technical)? 

The University has introduced a new mechanism called Technical Consideration. Geddit?  not Special..Technical…no, nevermind. 

Anyway, this process has been developed to offer support to students who experience major technical disruption during their examination. So if you experience a sustained technical issue or issues which prevent you from completing or submitting you exam or online assessment, you can apply for Technical Consideration. 

You will need to provide evidence of your technical issues and this is outlined on a new page on the University website. It’s important therefore that you are ready and able to collect evidence of a tech fail – including any notes you made about your technical issues, evidence of an outage from your Internet Service Provider, screenshots of error messages, photos of the issue, evidence of requesting technical support such as phone log, chat transcript or email. Obviously the University will be able to verify some things as well, including your contact with Stop 1, technical logs and examination incident reports and records. 

The main thing is to know you have the capacity to get these forms of evidence organized before you sit your exams! 

You need to get your application in within four business days of the issue – so act quickly. You can find the link to the application here.

You can contact us if you need help with your application, or if it’s deemed ineligible. 

Don’t forget – the existing Special Consideration process is still there if you are unwell or have another unexpected circumstance that impacts of your ability to do or complete your assessment! 

What should I bring to the exam? Is there anything I shouldn’t bring? 

It depends on the exam. Factors to consider are if the exam if in-person or online, and if it’s an open or closed book exam.  

Things to bring 
You should have your student ID. All students are required to display their University of Melbourne student ID card on their desk for the duration of the exam. Students who have lost their ID card must inform an exam supervisor prior to commencement of writing time and provide alternative photo ID (passport, Australian drivers licence or proof of identity card) as well as a copy of their statement of enrolment. Any issues that can’t be resolved regarding verification of a student’s identity may be pursued as a student discipline matter, which is governed by the Academic Board Regulation. See our page on Academic Misconduct for more info here

In addition to the loose pens, pencils, erasers and rulers that you can take into the exam venue, other authorised materials include:  

  • clear bottle of water  
  • pharmacy medications and other items in accordance with alternative exam arrangements  
  • mobile phones, tablets, laptops, wallets and purses must be placed underneath your desk (electronics to be turned off and no items to be taken into the toilets, this includes smart watches)  
  • additional items as indicated on the examination cover sheet in the case of open book exams 

Things not to bring 
The University’s Assessment and Results Policy sets out what can and can’t be taken into exams with you. Any breaches of this policy will be investigated as academic misconduct under the Student Academic Integrity Policy. If a finding of academic misconduct is made due to having unauthorised materials in an exam, penalties can include receiving zero marks for the exam or subject, and in some cases suspension or termination of enrolment. 

The following items are deemed to be unauthorised materials according to section 5.70 of the Assessment and Results Policy

(a) textbooks
(b) notebooks
(c) diaries
(d) paper, including blank paper
(e) manuscripts
(f) course notes and other study materials
(g) calculators, unless authorised by the examiner
(h) dictionaries, unless authorised by the examiner
(i) wristwatches
(j) mobile telephones
(k) audio or video equipment
(l) tablets, laptops and other electronic devices
(m) pencil cases
(n) notes of any kind including those written on rulers, calculators or calculator covers, on the student’s body or anywhere else
(o) periodic tables and formula sheets
(p) bags
(q) equipment cases, or 
(r) any other item or material that may cause disruption or provide students with an unfair advantage

For more information on responding to allegations of misconduct, see our page on Academic Misconduct here

Are there any other things to know before my exam? 

These might seem simple, but you'd be suprised by how these small things slip people up!

Check the time and location of your exam 
Not all exams are on the main campus so make sure you check where you’re going. It’s also a good idea to check the timetable a few days prior to your exam in case there have been any changes. 

Reading time 
The exam start time includes relevant reading time. So if your exam start time is 8:30am, and you are permitted 15 minutes of reading time, then your writing time will commence at 8:45am. Remember not to write on your paper during reading time. 

What do I do if I’m late for my exam?  

If you arrive late to your exam due to factors outside your control, and these circumstances can be independently verified, you may be admitted to the exam if no student has already left the exam. If this is the case you will not be given extra time to complete the exam. If you believe your exam performance was significantly impacted due to these reasons you may be eligible to seek an opportunity to re-sit by applying for special consideration. See our Special Consideration page for more information and contact us for advice if you believe this is the case. 

Useful resources and relevant policy