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Tips for surviving university exams

Whether you're preparing for your first university exams or you would call yourself a seasoned exam pro, check out these McMaster-specific tips to help you through the next exam season.

Dec 08, 2020

1. Read your exam schedule carefully.

  • Check your 'My Exam Schedule' tile in Mosaic for your individual exam schedule. 
  • Put exam dates, times and details in your calendar with reminders—including the virtual platform and any login credentials you may need.

2. Make an exam study plan and stick to it.

  • Plan ahead and give yourself time to cover the exam material.
  • Get help when you need it.
  • Pace yourself. 

3. Sleep and self-care are critical.

  • Get plenty of rest. It's hard to recall what you've studied when you're short on sleep. 
  • Avoid trading sleep for a little bit more study time. Staying up all night before an exam is likely to do you more harm than good.
  • Take frequent study breaks. Stretch, get some water and step away from your screens. Short breaks will help your study sessions be more effective.
  • Contact McMaster Student Wellness if you are feeling overwhelmed and need access to mental health resources, or contact Good2Talk, A free, confidential helpline available 24/7/365 exclusively for post-secondary students ages 17–24.

4. Be exam day ready.

  • Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your exam space, log into your computer (and make sure it’s plugged in so you don’t run out of battery), check your Internet, and download any required software prior to the exam start time.
  • Sleeping in is not an appropriate reason to grant you a deferred examination. Make sure you set an alarm and have a roommate or family member check that you are awake in time.
  • If you are in another time zone, make sure you know when you need to start the exam

5. What if I feel unwell on an exam day?

  • If you feel your illness will diminish your ability DO NOT WRITE THE EXAM.
  • Once you sit for a final exam, the course is completed and your grade is final.
  • If you cannot write your exam due to illness, you may apply for a Deferred Examination (within 5 working days) through the Office of the Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Social Sciences. Forms and instructions can be found here.

6. What if I miss an exam?

  • If you miss a final exam, you may apply for a Deferred Exam within 5 working days of missing the exam.
  • If you miss an exam due to illness, for the December 2020 Exam period, you will not be required to provide medical documentation with your Deferred Exam application.
  • If you miss an exam due to other unforeseen circumstances (such as a car accident or death in the family), appropriate documentation with verifiable origin covering the relevant dates is normally required.
  • Contact the Office of the Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Social Sciences, at  if you have any questions or concerns regarding required documentation.
  • Deferred Examination requests will not be approved for reasons of travel or vacations.
  • If you miss multiple exams, contact your Academic Advisor to discuss a plan for completing Deferred Exams and your academic course load in Term 2.

7. What happens if I have a deferred exam?

  • If the deferred examination is granted, you will be informed officially by means of the notation DEF which will appear on the relevant course your grade report (Mosaic > My Academics > Grades).
  • Please follow up with the Faculty if the DEF does not appear on your record with 10 business days of submitting a completed Deferred Examination Application.
  • Deferred Exams are written during the next official University deferred examination period: Exams deferred from the December 2020 exam period will be written during Midterm Recess in February 2021.

8. What happens if I miss a deferred exam?

  • If you do not write a deferred exam, you will received a failing grade for the exam.
  • Missed deferred exams cannot be deferred again.