I’d like to learn more about Newcastle!


Tackling 24-Hour Take Home Exams

By Newcastle University

Exam season is upon us and you may find that you have been set a 24-hour take home exam.

If so, you may be thinking ‘why bother revising?’ – after all, you’ll have access to your notes, the internet, and a whole 24 hours to complete the paper. But do you really want to spend that precious exam time looking for information, tracking down references and trying to work out what’s relevant to the question? Revising for 24-hour exams may look a little different to what you’re used to, but it can certainly save you a lot of time and headaches on the day.

Before you jump into your revision, it can be helpful to remember that 24-hour take home exams test how well you can apply the knowledge you have gained throughout the course to solve a problem or answer a question under timed conditions. You’ll therefore need to make sure you have an in-depth understanding of that knowledge and have practiced applying it to different questions, problems, and contexts.


What’s worth memorising?

take-home exams

You may feel that because you have access to all of your notes (as well as additional material online and in textbooks), there’s no point memorising anything in advance of the exam. However, it’s worth spending some time committing key content to memory so you don’t need to resort to looking up everything on the day. Have a look back at your module guide and lecture content to identify key concepts, ideas and knowledge that you’re likely to need to draw on on the day.

For everything else, think about how you might organise your material so it’s easy to find and work with during the exam. Look around for papers and sources that relate to the topics you’ve covered and have these handy along with some notes on their main arguments and/or key points so that you don’t have to wade through the whole paper again during the exam.


Revising for understanding

take-home exams (1)

Whilst your revision may not be as focussed on memorising information, you will want to make sure you have a good understanding of the material you’re working with so that you’re able to utilise your knowledge effectively to construct an answer to the question you’re set. Some revision strategies you might want to try for this are:

  • Questioning and interrogating the knowledge: why does this happen? How does it happen? Does it always happen this way? Is this always true? What about if we apply it to a different context? What are the implications of this?
  • Try applying the knowledge to case studies or different scenarios to get a better understanding of how theory works in practice.
  • Look at past papers or devise your own questions and either answer them in full or sketch out an essay plan under timed conditions. This will help you to test your recall and practice skills you’ll be using in the exam.
  • Compare and weigh up different approaches to the topic. Does everyone agree on this? Why? Why not? Which perspective is stronger?
  • Identify gaps in your knowledge and do some additional reading to fill them.

For more strategies, take a look at our guide to revising for 24 hour take home exams.


On the day

take-home exams (2)

Although you’re given 24 hours to complete the exam, the expectation is not for you to spend the whole 24 hours on it. Therefore, you’ll need to decide when you wish to complete the exam (a time when you’re well-rested, alert and unlikely to be disturbed is best) and how you want to use the time available to you. You may, for example, wish to complete a first draft at the beginning of the day and return to it after a few hours to edit and check your answers.    

See our guide to exam technique for 24 hour take home exams for more on this.

Academic Skills Kit: Preparing for your exams