Survive the exams
An overview over different exam formats in online and presence and how to handle them best

Exams

Every semester ends with an examination period. Since the next exam period will soon begin again, we, the studentsofTUdarmstadt team, have created an overview of all exam formats. At the moment, many exams take place virtually. Online exams bring new challenges with them and are different from what you are used to. Therefore, we have summarised our experiences and collected tips and tricks for you so that you are perfectly prepared for your next exams. We wishes you success in learning for the exams. You can definitely do it!

Written Exams in Presence

This type of exam is extremely stressful, as you have to get to the exam location first and find the right room. The waiting time causes then even more panic. Julia shares her experiences with you:

“My exams were always structured in the same way. I stand outside with other students, sometimes in the cold, sometimes in the sun, and we wait. At some point, one of the employees opens the door, we step in, split up and get ready. I take out all the utensils that I am allowed to use, store jacket and bag and turn my cell phone off. After the introduction, I uncover the exam sheets and work on the tasks as good as possible. And meanwhile – or shortly afterwards – I realize that it is not as bad as expected. And the feeling afterwards is simply liberating and relieving!”

Julia,
Business Administration/Industrial Engineering – specialising in Mechanical Engineering B.Sc.

Start preparing early, make a plan and stick to it! On the day of the exam, get up with positive thoughts and the right attitude and then try to relax.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Julia
Picture: Britta Hüning

Timetable and Checklist for Written Exams in Presence by Julia

During the semester: Visit the lectures and write summaries regularly, also attend tutorials and exercise groups, especially when they cover topics that you are struggling with.

Five weeks before: Collect old exams, sample questions, questionnaires, exercises, etc. Sometimes, lecturers provide them for you, otherwise I look for them from fellow students, older semesters or in sharepoints. Then: repeat and study!

Shortly before the exam: take care of organisational questions, where do I have to go? If I don't know the room, use the CampusNavi.

Exam checklist – you have to have with you:

  • Student ID
  • ID document
  • Pen(s)
  • Sometimes you also need paper or other tools are allowed such as calculator or formulary.

Catalina,
Biomolecular Engineering B.Sc.

Everyone has to find their own way of preparing for exams, there are no common rules that fit for everyone: someone is more aware when they read, others when they listen or when they write it down. I suggest you to find your own method of memorizing information.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Catalina
Picture: Britta Hüning

Open Book Exam

If you have never heard of an open book exam before, you might ask yourself, what it is about. Everything is very simple: For this exam you can bring all your notes and materials with you and use them during the exam. Diego repots about how his exam went:

“My first exam during Corona times took place in presence and I was really glad about it! Sure, all the hygiene measures weren’t the most comfortable, but in my opinion 1023 better than an online exam. I was a little bit worried the mask or the no-questions-rule would lead to some difficulties. But it was not like that at all, totally on the contrary. Everything was well organized, and I forgot that I was wearing a mask after the first 5 minutes. The exam was an open book exam and the difficulty level remained the same like the previous years. Thus, I must say that even if the measures take a little extra time, everything was pretty close to normal and to a “normal” exam.

Diego,
Mechatronics B.Sc.

Wake up early, eat breakfast, breath in and out and focus your thoughts on the most important things.

Portrait Diego
Picture: Britta Hüning

Written exams via Zoom

Due to the pandemic, many exams are taking place online at the moment. Inform yourself in time about the details of the exam and prepare for that – otherwise it will be stressful! Moiz talks about his exam and has some tips for you:

“I had a written exam via Zoom in the previous semester, and it was the toughest of all. We were given three hours for the exam, which also included uploading the solutions as PDF to Moodle. We were divided into different breakout rooms on Zoom, each having a supervisor to answer our queries. An emergency contact number was also provided to report to the professor about any major issues such as internet or power breakdown. The best part for me was taking the exam right from my table – the place where usually my brain works the most. Funnily enough, at some time during the exam, I casually looked at the window and was somehow lost there, but soon an announcement from the professor brought me back into the exam. Contrarily, in an exam hall, you get somehow motivated by looking around and watching everyone trying their best to excel in the exam.

Moiz,
Material Science M.Sc.

Check all the technicalities involved such as a stable internet, a functioning camera and microphone, and most importantly, a PDF creator and participate in the test run one day before the exam. Don’t aim to upload your PDF at the very last minute, there are chances of Moodle getting crashed. Try to finish earlier.

Portrait Moiz
Picture: Britta Hüning

Oral Online Exams

Another type of exam that is conducted online is the oral exam. It’s worth practicing this type of exam before. Polina will tell you, how she prepared for her oral exam:

“As a humanities student, I have already had countless oral exams, they are indispensable in my field of studies. But I had an oral exam via Zoom for the first time and was very excited to see what it would be like. The exam situation is similar to attending Zoom meetings, which I was already used to. However, you have to remember that it is still an exam, and you are still being graded. Don’t just rely on your speaking talent, because in an oral exam, it is your technical knowledge that is being tested first and foremost.

So, think about the structure and the main points you want to make in advance – it will give you confidence. Also, be prepared for questions. I know from experience that oral exams can be quite exhausting, even though they usually last much less than written exams. During this time, however, you have to be highly concentrated and present at all times, and you have to be able to react quickly.

Polina,
Linguistic and Literary Computing M.A.

Update Zoom to the latest version early enough and make sure that your computer is not planning any internal updates.

 Portrait Polina
Picture: Britta Hüning

Services of the Studierendenwerk and the ZSB

If exam time is a heavy burden for you, look at the free services offered by the Psychological Counselling of the Studierendenwerk Darmstadt! You can get support in the form of group offers, for example on the topic of procrastination, or book individual counselling if you are struggling with anxiety regarding exams or depressive moods.

The Central Student Advisory and Orientation Service (ZSB) of TU Darmstadt can also support you with advice and practical help on how to better organise your exam period and help to develop individual solutions for your problems. You can get advice online or by phone.

In any case, it is a sign of self-assurance to reach out and get support in time!

Term Papers

Another form of examination is term papers. Polina and Masha talk about their experiences with their favourite exam form:

“It is common for humanities students to have term papers instead of written exams. We have already experienced everything from 3 pages minor reports, middle-size essays, to 20 pages projects. This way of examination seems less stressful at first sight as you have plenty of time to prepare, but it does eventually require a lot of preparation and self-discipline. First, it is important to make sure you understand the requirements, to go as specific as possible with your research question and to narrow the topic down. Another important thing is that one shall never underestimate the time needed for the research! Researching often takes longer than actual writing. It also helps to structure your ideas regularly to not lose the big picture of a paper.

Masha,
Data and Discourse Studies M.A.

In my experience, profound research is the main condition for a good paper.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Masha
Picture: Britta Hüning

Research at the ULB

The Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek (ULB) of TU Darmstadt is the first address when it comes to literature research. There you will not only find the necessary literature, whether digital or in print, but also many events. For example, there are workshops on literature research and procurement, literature management programmes, citation or publishing. If you are new to the university and would like to get informed but do not have much time, check out their online tours and video introductions!

Project seminar

Finally yet importantly, there is the project seminar. Juan explains how he dealt with the challenges:

“I study Environmental Engineering where teamwork is a key to project success in professional life. With interdisciplinary project seminars, the university prepares me well for the after uni reality. In this type of exams, different professors from related fields design a project that students have to develop in groups and present the results in a report as well as orally – so it’s all about team work. For example, we once had to plan a new housing complex with a bus station in Roßdorf. During my first experience with one of these projects, I didn’t feel very confident with the language. Since you are working in groups, it is very likely that one of your team members is able to help you. Meanwhile, I have already experienced several project seminars and sometimes prefer them over stressful written exam.

Juan,
Environmental Engineering M.Sc.

What you definitely have to pay attention to in project seminars is discipline and reliability. I can only recommend you to make a well-structured plan. What is also very important is a good and smooth communication with the team.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Juan
Picture: Britta Hüning

Help with writing from the SchreibCenter

The SchreibCenter of TU Darmstadt offers support when it comes to linguistic problems with writing. With various offers for students, such as workshops or consulting services, you can improve your writing skills. The offers don’t just target scientific texts, but also how to write applications, for example.

At the Online Writing Lab (OWL), there are various materials that you can view and use from home.