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.



After the significant disruptions to ‘study as usual’ throughout Semester 1 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, the prospect of doing end of semester assessment online is a potentially daunting prospect for many students.

We have been fielding many, many questions and hearing your concerns about how this will unfold. Unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers – but hopefully we can give you a few critical tips to ensure that if things do go sideways, you can avoid complete disaster!

University info on exams Semester 1 2020

The University reckons “everything you need to know about your exams — when they will be, how to prepare, and what to do on exam day” is here.

That may be overstating it a tad – but there is a lot of important info there – so make sure you have read through it thoroughly. We expect this info to be updated and added to from time to time – so we won’t be replicating it here. What we will do though is try to give you some hints on pulling it all together so that if anything goes wrong, you have a plan.

The Timetable of Dooom

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

This semester you might have a combo of “strict time limit” exams, strict time limit (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.

Clashes and Overlaps and Timezones, Oh My!

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 cooked – 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.

The Y2K Bug Redux

You may not have been born when the Y2K thing happened…or didn’t happen…as in fact was the case – but you can read an informative article about it here. The point is – we are all in technology’s thrall – never more so in the sudden death world of final assessment. So what if the net goes down or the lights go out and the elecky goes off or your computer decides to bork in the middle of everything?

Make sure you are properly set up well inadvance 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, 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 usAt very least we will log your contact and be able to attest to the fact you reported a problem at the time.

Technical Consideration

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 three business days of the issue – so act quickly. You can find a link to the application form here from Monday 15 June.

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!

When You don’t Live in the Royal Exhibition Building

Actually, we should all be glad not to live in the REB – imagine trying to heat it! If you’ve ever done June exms in that venue – you’ll know it’s impossible.

Our point here is – what if you simply don’t have the capacity to do your exams where you live. Some people don’t have any space which can be set up adequately to do an exam in. Others don’t have the right equipment.


If this is you – don’t delay – contact Stop 1 and let them know. We have been advised by Chancellery that students who don’t have the right tools (e.g. computer with a webcam, reliable internet access) or appropriate space in which to sit their exam are able to apply for equipment or to sit their examination on campus in a designated space with appropriate hygiene measures in place.

All the Questions

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 in the analogue olden days – some might still be relevant.


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 Academic Board Regulation 8. See our page on Misconduct for more info.

Unauthorised materials

The University’s Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326) 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 (MPF1310). 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.

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

The following items are deemed to be unauthorised materials according to section 5.70 of the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326):

  • textbooks
  • course notes and other study materials (unless the examination is open book)
  • calculators, unless authorised by the examiner
  • electronic devices not covered elsewhere in this schedule
  • pencil cases
  • notes of any kind including those written on rulers, calculators or calculator covers, on the student’s body or anywhere else
  • periodic tables and formula sheets
  • blank paper
  • 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 page on Misconduct.

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.

Getting to the Royal Exhibition Building (REB)

A lot of exams are held at the REB, which is a longer walk than you might expect, so plan ahead so you know where you’re going.

The Royal Exhibition Building is located just north of Melbourne’s CBD, next to the Melbourne Museum in Carlton Gardens.

Public Transport Options:

  • Tram 86 or 96 to corner of Nicholson and Gertrude Streets
  • Free City Circle Tram to Victoria Parade
  • City loop train to Parliament Station
  • Bus routes 250, 251 and 402 to Rathdowne Street
  • Take the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle to stop No. 5 (a day ticket is $10)


Local bicycle facilities include bike lanes on Rathdowne St and Canning St. There is also a shared pedestrian/bike path on Nicholson St. Bicycle racks on the Plaza provide ample bike parking just outside the front door.

Car Park:

The Melbourne Museum undercover car park is open from 6:00am to midnight daily. Enter via Rathdowne Street or Nicholson Street.

For more info, including a map, please see Museum Victoria’s website.

Keep an eye out for the purple marquee for our Exam Support Stall where you can get water, pens, pencils, tissues and other essentials for your exams.

Allow extra time for travel

Plan to leave earlier than you normally would to get there, just in case there are any delays on your trip. All forms of transport have the potential for delays and you are expected to plan for minor changes or disruptions.

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.

If you’re late to an 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.

More information

University Policy

Other Information