Preparing for Exams

Preparing for Exams

Preparing for Exams

Preparing for your exams

Preparing for exams is something that happens at the end of every year. Even though we know that it is going to happen, this preparation is often pushed to one side or even put on the long finger and it can appear to sneak up on us.

There is a wealth of information available to you about exams and how to prepare for them. Here, in the Skills Centre, we have pulled together some practical advice for you as you settle into your home study and revision routine.

Study Approaches

When approaching revision, you should always begin by looking to identify and use study techniques that suit you. Recognise past successes and build upon them.

To do this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What has/has not worked for you in the past? 
  • Which is the most successful method you have used to retain information before?
  • Could you combine a few techniques (that you know work for you) to create your personal success strategy?

Along with active study, you need to get organised!

Create a space where you can study that meets your needs. This year you will also need to identify a space to take your exams. Our avatars will show you how you can introduce active learning to your routine in UCC's Top Tips for student learning online

One of the most important things is time management. It can be difficult at this time as you are staying at home much more that you are used to. It is important that you set up some sort of routine and remember that each task you complete, each concept you learn adds to your preparation for the exams.

First, schedule your time, working backwards from when the exam is scheduled to today. Don’t forget to schedule rest and fun as well! Our avatars will show you some helpful study tips in The ASPIRE Checlist: Study Strategies

Next, get exam organised:

  • Know what topics will be examined and when the exams for your modules will take place
  • Identify the materials you need to study for each module
  • Gather all materials and place them together; colour coding for different modules/topics often helps for this
  • Ensure you have any internet connection codes, power cables, etc., that you may need

Remember, note-taking is important. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Take good notes; keep them engaging and easy to navigate
  • While studying:
    • Create condensed summaries of each of the main concepts with references
    • Utilise the Cornell note-taking method (Note-taking for Lectures Online PDF)
    • Remember, understanding key-concepts, how they are connected with each other, and the wider field of study, is more important than just being able to reproduce them
    • Take good notes on the content and go back over any areas you are unsure of
    • Should more questions arise, contact your lecturer via email or Canvas and ask them to clarify
    • Our avatars will show you the best methods for note-taking in The 6 R's of Note-Taking

NOTE: Past Exam Papers are available on the Boole Library Website. They may give you an indication of the subject and style of questions that could be asked. You should check with your examiner to ascertain their relevence to this years' exam. 

For more guidance, you can download our handout on Preparing for your exams 

Finally, if you want to connect with someone to help you create a study plan, please get in touch with the Skills Centre at or through any of our social media channels.

If you are registered with the Disability Support Service (DSS), please ensure that:

  • Your Module Coordinator is aware of the exam accommodations you require
  • You have downloaded and tested any additional software you will be using for you online exams
  • Contact the DSS at for any additional queries

Remember, the UCC “Keep Learning” website will keep you up to date regarding assessment. 

Your exam will be submitted through Turnitin, therefore all normal procedures regarding plagiarism must be observed. Remember also that collusion – cooperating with other people during the exam - is a form of plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism – where you resubmit work previously marked – is also a form of plagiarism.  All forms of plagiarism are considered to be serious academic misconduct.  All suspected forms of plagiarism will be subject to procedures as laid out in the UCC Plagiarism Policy.

Specific Exam Question Styles

Taking an online exam is a new experience for many students, but rest assured online exams are very similar to what you are used to​. Preparing adequately for your online exam is essential and will optimise your chances of success. Remember, even though taking online exams might feel easier and more relaxed as you are taking the exam at home, it is still an exam setting and exam rules will apply.

This guide will be focused on preparing for online time-limited exams, which you can read more about here. 

An open book exam allows you to use study materials, internet and books while doing your exam. This can take place either in a normal exam setting or it can also be used for an online exam/assessment instead of traditional formal written exams. In an online ‘Open Book’ exam, you will submit your work digitally via Canvas and work remotely within the time allocated for your exam. Open book exams are not so much a test of memory but look to test your understanding of the topic and your application of knowledge to construct an argument to answer the exam question(s).

This guide will be focused on preparing for time-limited open book exams, which you can read more about here. 

Short answer questions examine both knowledge and understanding of a topic. You are required to know the concepts that you have studied and their application. It gives you an opportunity to showcase what you know and how to apply it, providing examples as you go, when required.  

There is no generic structure to short answer questions. They can take multiple forms. This is why it is so important to read the directions that you are given in the exam and follow them.

This guide will be focused on preparing for short answer questions in a time-limited exam, which you can read more about here.

MCQ exams test your understanding of a broad range of material, usually broader than essay style questions. You are expected to not only know basic definitions, but also intricate details of your subject. You are less likely to “bluff” in an MCQ, as answers are defined as either right or wrong.

This guide will be focused on preparing for multiple choice question exams, which you can read more about here. 

Oral exams this year may take different forms. The two most common ones are either audio recording or an online video-call session. Check with your department in advance which format they have chosen and what the requirements are. Once you know the format of your oral exam, take a look at the advice below to help prepare for your online exams.

This guide will be focused on preparing for online oral exams, which you can read more about here.


UCC Skills Centre Radio Show: All about exams

Episode Five: All about Exams

This week we are delighted to go through some exam preparation. We are thrilled to welcome Dr Eithne Hunt and Dr Edel Semple to the studio for their advice. Caroline Schroeter, Patricia O’Connor, Loretta Goff, and Kristina Decker welcome Kathy Bradley, Skills Centre Coordinator, back to discuss exam time and the Skills Centre Exam Bootcamp.


Exam related videos from the 'Gimme Two Minutes' series!

The Skills Centre 'Gimme Two Minutes' video series, available for viewing on YouTube, focuses on very basic concepts related to the academic writing and preparation skills, delivered by the University College Cork Skills Centre in a short and visual format. These videos can be used as self-learning tools and give you a taste of what sessions and workshops the Skills Centre offers to UCC students.

Useful videos from the 'Minute Methods' video series

This series is brought to you by the Skills Centre Avatars Joey, Millie, Steve and Eunice. The avatars have spent time with the Skills Centre tutors to create short snappy videos that will help you to develop good study habits and academic writing etiquette, all in just one minute.