Study Tips & Tools

Online Tests

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online testThere ARE some tricks . . .

Taking an online test has it’s own particular challenges—challenges that require their own particular strategies!

These tips are for the online tests given in my own courses, but they are applicable to other types of online testing situations as well.

Have all your resources ready

This tip isn’t as simple as it sounds.  First, since my online tests are “open resource” tests you may have your notes, textbook, and other materials with you as you take the exam.  But just having them there doesn’t mean that you are ready to use them.  You need to know exactly where all the information that you may need is located –you may not have unlimited time at your disposal to find information needed to answer unexpected questions.  One way to prepare is to tab your notes and the textbook with Post-It notes that identify specific sections on which you will be tested.  Another way is to organize your materials and become familiar with them.

Use multiple resources

Of course you’ll want to have your annotated Learning Outlines with you –as well as your textbook.  But there are other resources that you may find helpful when you are stumped on a test item.  Here are a few that you may not have thought of:

  • Lab manual, lab notes & handouts, lab atlases
  • Medical dictionary
  • Regular dictionary
  • Note cards (flash cards/study cards)
  • Blank paper (to sketch out concepts when interpreting questions)
  • Printouts of your previous attempts at the online test
    (including annotations regarding the correct answers)

Analyze your previous attempts!

  • Each time you take an online test in Kevin’s course, you are immediately given the results.
  • If the results aren’t immediately available, click here for help.
  • Review each item on the test.  For those that are marked wrong do some research to find the correct answers and analyze why you got it wrong.
  • Click here for the test analysis worksheet.
  • If you can’t understand an item, or can’t find the correct answer, then get help!


  • I often use multiple forms of a question in the test bank from which your test is generated.  That means that on your second attempt, you may think you are getting the same question again but it may NOT be the same.  You may be seeing an alternate form of the question that has a different answer.
  • Fill-in items must be exactly correct.
    • Partly this is because all items are graded by the computer, and the program isn’t smart enough to “know what you mean.” One situation that often throws off students is when what appears to be a correct answer is marked incorrect because there’s an extra space in the answer (usually at the end)—so watch for that.
    • Another issue is spelling.  Your answer must always be spelled correctly. That’s part of learning how to communicate accurately and professionally. For those of you going into patient care or managing patient records, accuracy can affect a person’s life . . . so it’s best to learn that lesson here and now—where no one’s life is in danger.

So be careful!

Use online resources, too

Online helps that you have already opened in a separate browser window before beginning the online test are OK, too.  For example, you can have the online version of the Learning Outline available in another browser window so you can find it quickly.

You can also use online medical dictionaries and encyclopedias.
For example, use the online Lion Den Dictionary you can get to by clicking the Search button in the top menu bar most pages in the Lion Den (mouse over the Lion Den tab).

You can also use the free Google Toolbar in your browser or the free Google Deskbar on your desktop to access information online.  For definitions, type “define” then the term (which you can cut and paste directly from the online test).  Or to find images that might help you, type in the name of the structure or region and when you get the results page, click on “images” at the top of the window.

If can’t install the Google tools on the computer that you are using, simply go to and do the same things there.

Another good online resource is You can download toolbars and desktop tools for by clicking here.

Don’t forget that your online Learning Outlines here at also have embedded links to helpful online references!

As you research an answer, you may want to keep track of what you learned and where it came from . . . in case you need to use it again.  Consider keeping a “test notebook.”

Avoid using your resources


Get your resources ready and don’t use them?!  What’s the sense in that?

Plenty, actually.  You want to have your resources ready, but you want to be able to answer the test items without using them.  If you look up each and every answer, you’ll spend a day or two on each attempt!  Your resources are there as a backup–not your main way of answering questions.

Read the directions

I know . . .  when I put together the bookshelves in my office, I set the instructions aside and just started working.  After all, I’ve put together bookshelves—I know how this works.  Guess what?  I messed it all up –they wouldn’t hold more than a couple of books because I didn’t know about the tricky hardware.  So I had to do them over, this time reading the directions.

Online tests often have a whole page of directions tailored to the test you are about to take.  DON’T SKIP THIS PAGE.  It tells you how the test will be presented and how you submit it for grading and so on.  In fact, I suggest that you print the directions out on your printer in case you need them later.

Don’t forget the directions found in individual test items (or sets of items). For example, if an items specifies that “more than one item applies” or “use all that apply” then it’s best to use MORE THAN ONE choice. If an item asks you to sort items in a particular order, such as from bottom to top, then don’t list them top to bottom.

Pace yourself

You may take this advice to mean that you should keep an eye on the clock—and worry about that so much that you mess up the test.   But in pacing yourself, you also want to make sure that you don’t rush through the test, either.  If you are way ahead of a reasonable time frame, slow down and give yourself time to answer the remaining items carefully.  Too much of a hurry will make you become flustered and perform poorly on the test.

Many online tests don’t have a tight time frame, anyway. If you have a few days to take an online test, then take an occassional break if you need to and come back to the test later.

Don’t panic!

If you experience problems with CANVAS, you’ll have a first-hand experience of the phenomenon we physiologists call “the stress response.”   Your heart rate increases, you sweat profusely, your breathing gets deeper and more rapid, you are “revved up.”  This is great if you are being stalked by a lion—but this doesn’t help much in taking a test.  So calm down and get help.  Use the helps at the CANVAS login screen (where you entered your password), including the college/university CANVAS help center, or contact me.

It is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to contact help and resolve issues with the online test function—so give yourself enough time to do that.

DON’T WAIT until the deadline to take your first attempt! 

Want to know more?

Here are some online helps you may want to have ready:

Lion Den Search Page has tools to search the Lion Den site, the whole internet, and even the Lion Den Dictionary to look up words in the questions that may confuse you and Medical Spell Checker to double check terms needed for “fill in” items..

Lion Den Table of Contents may help you find outlines or other helps you need.

InteliHealth Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary

MEDLINEplus Dictionaries


Yahoo! Reference – Gray’s Anatomy

Last updated: April 24, 2017 at 20:41 pm