Exam preparations

The good exam


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    Preparing for an exam at the University can require a large amount of work from you as a student, since you have the responsibility to check and uphold deadlines. This can make you become more anxious, since the difficulty of an exam is also greater than what you are probably used to. However, preparation and planning of your study and exams can help you reduce any possible anxiety.

    This can for example be done, by:

    • Being well acquainted with your curriculum
    • Having an overview of criteria for the exams as well as deadlines
    • Having a plan of the most important material in the curriculum that you need to understand
    • Structuring your weekday to have set preparation times.

    It is crucial that you view your whole semester as preparation for the coming examinations. You can utilize the following methods to prioritise your curriculum and make a weekly schedule:




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    Oral Presentation

    The stakes can be quite high on the day of your exam. The requirement of exams at the university is usually higher, than what you are used to, which can make some people anxious.

    You have probably heard a lot of advice about taking control and showing what you have learned – however, it is easier said than done.

    Define the situation and audience

    When you have to make a presentation, you primarily have to consider what kind of situation it is you have to make the presentation in. Is it in a lecture, where the audience is fellow students, or is it an exam, where the audience is an examiner and censor? You should be conscious that you are speaking to your audience when conducting your presentation.   

    Find your structure

    A popular saying that expresses a structure in oral presentations, goes like this: “Say, what you want to say, say it, and say, what you have said”. When you have to make an oral presentation, you can for example start by presenting what you want to talk about and how you want to talk about it. Afterwards you can continue by shortly presenting the subject:

    • What is your/the model’s/the theory’s/the text’s claim?
    • How do you/the model/ the theory/the text substantiate this claim – and what supports the claim?
    • Is there, for example, something that weakens the claim?
    • What is your academic evaluation in relation to the subject?
    • Finish by recollecting the main points of the presentation.
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    Project exam in groups

    Group work occupies a large part of the course of your study at Aalborg University, where exam projects are devised and completed in groups. You and your group must defend your written work in an oral group exam.


    It is a good idea to plan who says what and when, a while before your exam. Make sure your presentations are interesting, and that each group member involves a new perspective on the subject. Make room for the examiner and censor to ask you some questions, when planning your presentation.

    It is recommended that you make a short presentation of your agenda for the examiner and censor at the beginning of the examination.

    If you are more than two in your group, it can be a good idea to use name tags, so the examiner and censor knows who each of you are.


    Make sure you plan what roles you each should have during the examination. It is very unfortunate if some group members dominate too much in the exam. You can use the following exercise on roles in the group to determine the structure of your project group:

    Roles in a group

    Even though the counsellor and examiner will moderate, make sure that every group member is included. It is important to make room for each other and try to distribute the time equally. Remember - you are a team.

    In the meantime, it is important that you support each other and complement if necessary. In some instances, it can be a good idea to plan a specific signal or something that indicates to the other group members that they can now add to the conversation.


    Fundamentally, it is a group evaluation, but if you wish to get grades individually, you can arrange it with your examiner and censor before the exam starts. The justification and feedback of the evaluation will be collective afterwards.

    Watch videos from group exams at AAU in Danish

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    Handling nervousness

    It is important to get started properly on your exam day. With a few activities on the day, you can manage your anxiety and achieve a better exam experience.

    Have enough time

    It is important that you have enough time on the day of your exam, to do everything you need to, without running around in the last moment. You should get up about two to three hours before your exam so you have enough time to get ready.


    If you are anxious, you should go for a walk, a run, go to the local fitness centre, or do something active.

    Exercise is important for your brain to perform optimally. You will feel more fresh and clear in your head, as well as burning off some of the anxiousness. Let your degree of anxiousness control how much you exercise.

    Energy for your brain

    After your exercise and a hot shower, it is very important to eat breakfast, for your brain to get enough energy to perform.

    Your blood sugar is low and your body may be a bit dehydrated after seven-nine hours of sleep. That is why it is important to eat and drink sufficiently in the morning.

    Three tips before the exam

    Remember that at the exam, it is all about you. It is important that you feel good and comfortable. Concentrate on yourself, until you have performed the presentation. After your presentation, you can begin to think about the other group members. This way, you do not lose focus.

    Here are three great tips, for handling the butterflies in your stomach, after you have gotten rid of the most anxiousness at home with your preparation:

    1. Accept that you are anxious. Talk to yourself, and admit that it is alright to be anxious. By accepting your anxiousness, you can minimise its influence.
    2. Take ten to twenty deep breaths and get rid of the tension and discomfort.
    3. Take a few jumps for five to ten minutes before you go to bed. Relax as much as you can in your arms and jump. It sounds weird – but it helps! When you jump in this way, you will experience that your muscles relax, your breath will be deeper and the tensions in your neck and shoulders will subside.
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    Handling anxiety

    If you are one of those people who not only get nervous up to an exam but experience anxiety you may benefit from the exercise “write the anxiety away”.

    It is scientifically proven that one of the best ways of reducing your anxiety is to write it away.

    The exercise in all its simplicity is that you prior to the exam take a piece of paper and a pen or pencil and write down your negative thoughts and feelings without doing spellcheck, grammar and typo’s. After writing down your thoughts and feelings on paper, crumple up that piece of paper and throw it in the trash. Physically throwing the thoughts and feelings away turns down the mental volume of them too.

    By writing your thoughts and feelings on paper the theory is that you “offload” your working memory and free up mental resources for the exam.


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    Expectations and ambitions

    If you have high expectations for your exam presentation, it can have a large impact on your performance at the exam. High expectations can often lead to exam anxiety. Be careful to not attach your entire identity on the aspects you are evaluated on.  

    There is nothing wrong with having high expectations, since it can keep you active and engaged in your study. The problem arises when grades and presentation is too much in focus, leaving no room for errors and oversights - which is also part of the study.   

    Level of ambition vs. level of presentation

    Consider if your level of ambition is too high. If this is the case, you will feel inadequate about your work. If you constantly make new demands for yourself, the satisfaction of reaching a goal will never spread through your body, and will tear at your self-esteem. That is why it is important to set yourself realistic demands.

    Use this exercise to examine if you have realistic demands for yourself:

    EXPECTATIONS for use of time

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    5 research-based tips for your exam

    How learn your exam curriculum best:

    1. Make sure to study for your exam throughout the entire semester. It’s much better for the brain to gain knowledge gradually over a longer period of time.
    2. Study for your exam in an environment that is similar to where the exam will take place. It is easier to recall something once you have learned it in an environment that resembles the environment in which it will be used.
    3. Give presentations. When you have to explain your knowledge to others it is easier to discover any gaps and/or uncertainties in your arguments and explanations. In other words, try to learn from yourself – "Understanding an explanation is easier than explaining an understanding."
    4. Get your nights’ sleep. Sleep is essential for your memory as the brain does memory consolidation when you are asleep. Memory consolidation is a win-win function the brain has, and it contributes to factual learning as the brain 1) reviews information and removes unnecessary information and 2) associates the new information with some exciting knowledge. Lack of sleep decreases the brain’s ability to perform memory consolidation.
    5. Take a nap. A little 20-30 minute nap in the afternoon can help with the learning you had prior to the nap.

    Source: The advice originates from Thomas Alrik Sørensen, lector in neuropsychology and leader at Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at Aalborg University and Poul Jennum, chief physician at Danish Centre of Sleep Medicine and clinical professor in neurophysiology at Copenhagen University.

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    The digital exam

    As a result of corona, some study programmes might continue using the digital exam format. Therefore, we have gathered some tips and tricks that can help you through the digital exam.

    • Check your internet connection prior to the exam – you can even turn on internet sharing on your cellphone in order to use that as a back-up, if the connection becomes unstable during the exam
    • Make sure you know where the exam is taking place, whether it is for example Zoom or Teams, and be sure that you have the correct link
    • Open up the software you need for the exam prior to the exam – in that way you can make sure that you have the latest version installed
    • Test your microphone and camera to ensure that your internal- and external examiner are both able to see and hear you
    • Check that the power plug of your computer is plugged in so that you do not risk running out of power during the exam
    • You can also download Zoom or Teams as an app on your phone and be ready to take the exam from there if there are any problems with your computer during the exam

    In addition to the extra technical considerations and preparations, the digital exam is otherwise very similar to the physical one. Your internal and external examiner will meet you in the digital space, where your conversation will take place as usual. When they deliberate, you will be sent out to an online waiting room and be automatically called back when they are ready to give you your grade and feedback.