Take-home exams are a common method of examination used at the University. You work on your exam text individually, often over a slightly longer period of time. Complete your written assignment in three stages.

There is no ready-made template as to how a take-home exam must be formulated. Read the instructions carefully to be sure that you know what must be done and what is to be included. Following the structure provided by the exam questions often gives you a good structure to follow in your answers.

When you take a home exam, you have access to the course literature and other material. Usually, these exams contain several questions requiring longer answers, where you demonstrate that you have absorbed the course literature and can apply your knowledge. In order to be well prepared before an examination, it is important to be well familiar with the literature beforehand and to have followed the teaching and coursework.

Complete your written assignment in three stages:

1. Read the instructions carefully

Read through the instructions carefully, ideally several times. Our advice is to print out the instructions on paper and keep them available on hand throughout the entire writing process. Mark different types of words in the instructions in different ways, for example with different colours. Read and mark:

  • What is it that must be done? What verbs are used for this?

    These are words such as describe, define, explain why, compare, discuss and problematise. Underline or mark words with a specific colour so that you can clearly see what these words are. Some of the words are not easy to understand, but there is a list of verbs that might be helpful. You can also ask the teacher or ask The Writing Centre for help.

  • What sort of content is expected?

    What is it that for example is to be described, explained, compared, discussed, and so on? Here you can use another colour to define what content should be covered.

  • Instructions covering the formatting of the text

    Read through carefully instructions regarding, for example, font, line spacing, size, referencing, number of words and deadline for handing in. Even if much of this applies to the finished text, it is good to bear it in mind from the very beginning.

  • Criteria

    Will specific criteria be used for the grading of your work? This indicates what is important to include and think about. Read through any such criteria carefully.

2. Get going

Hopefully, you have already written a little about what you already know and are familiar with, regarding what is being asked. Now you need to carry on collecting content which is to be included. In the beginning of your process, how your text is formulated or what it looks like is not so important. It is not yet a finished text.

Here are some suggestions on how you can create a framework and get started:

  • Copy the questions into the document you are writing in

    It is a good idea to have the questions there as a help to keep track of what must be done and what the text is all about. If there are several questions within an exam question, it is good to divide these up. This can help create good structure in your text. Don’t forget to then remove these questions from your text before handing in.

  • Gather material you think should be included under the questions

    Start writing to piece the content together. Put in content from the course literature, notes from reading and the lectures that fit in, but also key words and your own thoughts regarding what is being asked. This allows you to get started and keep working further.

3. Check before handing in

  • Go over your text thoroughly

    Have you answered the questions and followed the instructions? Read the questions again and compare with your answers. Have you kept to what is says in the questions? Have you added information which has nothing to do with the topic? Does anything relevant have to be added?

  • Go through your references thoroughly

    Use the computer’s spellcheck and grammar check, but go over the text yourself as well.

  • Are you following the correct formatting?

    Number of words (or characters, or pages), font, size, spacing and reference system.

  • Take care to hand in on time

If I reach a dead-end in my writing?

  • If you get stuck in your writing process, work on writing another section elsewhere in the text

    Talk to someone about your writing and what you are going to write about. This can help to clarify things.

  • Write down your thoughts, or record them, as they arise

    Ideas about your content can arise at any point during the writing process, not always when you are sitting at your computer. Write them down or record them as soon as they arise. These can be important food for thought that might otherwise be forgotten when you sit back down at your computer.

  • Before you finish for the day: make a plan

    Where are you going to start next time? What are you going to carry on working with? Make some notes. This makes it easier to start up again. One other good pointer is to write an opening sentence for your next section.

Visit The Writing Centre

The Writing Centre is open every Tuesday from 13.00 to 15:00 at the entrance of Orkanen Library. We help you with questions regarding text and writing, or making an appointment, and provide more information about what support you can get from us during your studies.