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Study Tips & Tools

Online Tests

Taking an online test has its own particular challenges—challenges that require their own particular strategies.

The following tips are for online tests given in my own courses, but they apply to other types of online testing situations, as well.

photo of students taking online test with text: taking online tests, tips for success and pitfalls to avoid

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 or digital bookmarks that identify specific sections on which you will be tested.  Another way is to simply organize your materials and become familiar with them before opening your online test.

Use multiple resources

Of course you’ll want to have your annotated Review Outlines and/or 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 (and Test Notebook, including Test Analysis) of your previous attempts at the online test

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, try logging out of Canvas, then back in again. If that doesn’t work, try clearing your browser cache. If that fails, try restarting your device.
  • 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.
    • Keep a Test Notebook with your Test Analysis results and notes.
  • 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 glance at an item and 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.
    • Fill-in items usually complete a statement. If there are double words or incorrect pluralization, then the resulting statement is wrong—or, at least, not of professional quality needed.
    • Simple put: be very careful with fill-in items.

Use online resources, too

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

You can also use online medical dictionaries and encyclopedias. My favorite is Dictionary.com

Don’t forget that your online Review Outlines  and Learning Outlines here at lionden.com 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 that resource 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 default way of answering questions.

Read the directions

I know . . .  when I recently 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 sometimes have an initial set of directions tailored to the test you are about to take.  DON’T SKIP THESE DIRECTIONS.  It tells you how the test will be presented and how you submit it for grading and so on.  In fact, I suggest copying those directions for future reference to use during the test.

Don’t forget the directions found within individual test items (or sets of items). For example, if an item 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 do not list them top to bottom.

Pace yourself

You may take this advice to mean that you should keep an eye on the clock, which is true. But don’t overdue that and possibly worry about the clock so much that you mess up the test.   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 occasional break if you need to and come back to the test later. All of Kevin’s online tests allow you to log out (before submitting the test) and then log back in and resume the test where you left off. Take advantage of that!

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 help tools in the Canvas global menu (edge of screen), 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:

Dictionary.com  (finds entries in regular and science dictionaries)


Yahoo! Reference – Gray’s Anatomy

Last updated: January 10, 2022 at 18:04 pm