Guidance for staff when advising their students
This guidance has been compiled to support academic colleagues at the University to develop appropriate advice for students with regards to take-home exams. This guidance is primarily comprised of extracts taken from the University of New South Wales Open-book and Take-home exams (2020).
This guidance does not cover all the factors that colleagues may need to consider when advising students on how to approach their take-home exam. It offers some suggestions which colleagues are advised to adapt to their assessment context.
Ensure students are clear that a take-home exam requires them to complete a task and submit their work electronically within a strict time limit. The only difference is that they are working off-campus.
With this exam format, students can consult their own notes, course texts and other materials as advised by their lecturer.
Ensure you provide your students with the following information on exam requirements:
- The time and date the exam should be handed in.
- How the exam should be submitted.
- How much time they have to complete the exam. Guidance should be provided on how much time they should be spent on different activities (e.g. reading, drafting, writing), where appropriate.
- Clear guidance should be given regarding the reference materials students are advised to consult and/or other resources they can use.
- The topic areas the exam will cover.
- The types of questions, essays, short answers, etc.
- Clear guidance around word length.
- How long answers should be.
- Whether they need to reference.
Other key information:
- Share the assessment criteria in advance and if these have been adapted, outline how and why.
- Students will also need clear guidance on what to do should they encounter difficulties (technical or otherwise). There will be a “support system” in place to help students struggling with a variety of technical issues and for alerting teams to other unforeseen challenges.
- Recognise that some students for a variety of reasons (e.g. access to suitable technology, caring responsibilities, illness) may have challenges engaging with take-home exams. These students should be encouraged to self-identify in advance and request an extension for coursework or defer to the summer examination period (which will be classed as a first attempt) via the new more flexible Extenuating Circumstances process.
- For Special Arrangements outside of extra time Support Centre/HBS Programme Teams and Exams will work together with individual students to see what measures can pragmatically be delivered.
- Reassure students that their work will be marked having regard to the unfamiliar teaching and learning context that we currently find ourselves in.
To prepare for the take-home exam, ensure your students do the following:
- Check their access to IT equipment and that it is working
- Identify a comfortable workspace to prepare for and take the exam
- Work out the materials and resources they will need, check that they have these at hand
- Study their course materials
- Prepare useful notes and organise their materials
- Get a good night’s sleep
On the day of the take-home exam, useful advice for students includes:
- Not to consult with others over the questions or seek unauthorised assistance. This can result in penalties.
- Only use the materials they really need.
- Read all the questions carefully so they understand what is being asked of them.
- Use the exam time wisely. Don’t forget to factor in time needed to spend on reading, drafting, and writing the exam questions.
- Stick to the advised word length and don’t over answer.
- Not to panic. It’s okay to be nervous.
Talk to students about some of the misconceptions of take-home exams:
- Take-home exams are easy - A take-home exam is not an easy option. It requires more than just copying information straight from texts. With this exam format, the majority of the marks are given to how students locate, apply and use information. This requires preparation on the students' part.
- You don’t have to prepare or study - Wrong! This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about take-home exams. Students should study just as they would for any other exam. Having access to texts and notes might mean they don’t have to memorise as much information, but they will still need to be able to apply information effectively. This means students must fully understand and be familiar with the content and material of their module, so they can find and use the appropriate information. With a take-home exam, students will need to find the relevant information in the resources they have.
- You can just copy from the book! In a take-home exam, students are expected to do more than just reproduce materials. They are expected to locate, interpret and apply information. Students may also need to reference sources as well, as they would need to do for any other assignment.
- The more materials the better! Access to too many materials can end up distracting students and crowding their workspace. It is best for students to carefully select the materials they might need and organise them for quick reference.
To avoid plagiarism, ensure your students are aware of the following:
The University’s regulations on plagiarism still apply to take-home exams. The submission process will involve students following the usual guidelines, which can be found here.
Collaborative working is not permitted unless otherwise expressly advised otherwise. Where collaborative working is encouraged as part of the exam process, please ensure students follow the guidelines issued by the lecturer with regard to completion of the take-home exam.