Take-Home Exams (THE) are being used by Carlow College for the first time as a contingency during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, they are a widely used type of assessment across the world and there is plenty of evidence about their pros and cons. In particular, it is reassuring to note that they have been found to be less stressful to students and just as reflective of student work and ability as the more traditional invigilated exam.
THE are similar to continuous assessments such as essays in that they can be undertaken at home with access to lecture notes, internet and books and articles. Unlike essays for which you have weeks and even months to prepare, THE are time-limited. In this case you will have 24 hours between the release of the exam questions and the submission of your answers. Within those 24 hours there is little time to research and learn new topics or find out where to access material about these topics. Therefore, you need to prepare for THE in advance by ensuring you are familiar with the topics and by assembling material that will be useful to you in answering the questions.
We have put responses to some FAQs below. If you have additional questions please contact your Programme Director by email.
How exactly will the exam work?
The exam paper will be made visible to you in a word document on the date and at the time scheduled for that exam. You will log in to the Moodle page where you will find the exam paper and an answer book on the top tile of the page. You should download the two documents so that you can work offline. The exam paper will contain the questions and tell you how many are to be answered. In virtually all cases, two questions are to be answered from a choice of 4-6 questions.
When you open the answer book you will be asked to fill in details such as your name and student number. You will also be asked to tick a box confirming that the work presented is your own work and that you have read and understood the Carlow College Plagiarism Policy. You should then answer the questions by typing directly into the answer book. (We would advise you to prepare an outline for your answer, do a rough draft and then edit this for your final draft. Remember to save your document frequently to make sure you do not lose work.). Before the deadline for submission you should upload your answer book through the Turnitin link on the Moodle page. There is only one Turnitin link. In this case you will not be given the opportunity for a test submission.
Am I expected to spend 24 hours answering the questions?
Absolutely not. The main reasons for the 24 hour timeframe is to take account of the fact that many students have additional caring responsibilities at home as well as intermittent access to devices and to the internet and also to facilitate international students working in different time zones. We would advise you not to spend too long answering the questions. It is not good for you to be working at your computer for too long and you certainly should not be missing meals or staying up overnight to complete the exam. Given other things that may be going on in your lives, you might wish to set aside a particular block of 3-4 hours to answer the questions. You should also ensure that you have somewhere quiet and uncluttered to work and let other people in your household know that you will be unavailable for this block of time. You may find it useful to look at the following documents which contain advice about studying at home and setting up a low-distraction study/exam space.
How much am I expected to write?
There is no hard and fast rule on this. Students in traditional exams tend to write very different lengths of answers and there may be no correlation between the wordcount of the answer and the grade awarded. The most important thing is that you answer the question posed. How long this takes can vary between students and within disciplines. As a rough guide, you might expect to write between 750 and 1,000 words per question. That is about 11⁄2 to 2 typed pages using 1.5 line spacing. You can, if you wish, write more than this but you should keep your answer under 2,000 words.
If I am using books and articles am I expected to put in references?
You will not be expected to follow the citation requirements of an essay. If you draw on the arguments of others and particularly if you quote the words of others you should make this clear in your answer. For example, ‘I agree with Diarmaid Ferriter’s argument when he showed that ………’ or ‘When Lalor and Share identify Social Care as an emerging profession….. or ‘As Terry Eagletonargues: “Heathcliff is a fragment of the famine”’. If you are using an online source (article, review, study etc.), naming the author of the work will be sufficient if you heavily draw from that article or quote from it. Remember that the Turnitin software will identify if material has been copied and pasted from the internet and from a range of online resources. By naming your sources in this way in your answer, you will be safe from any inadvertent plagiarism.
Can I discuss the questions with other students and/or other members of my household?
You are not forbidden from doing this and there may be learning for you in these discussions, particularly if you discuss with other students while preparing for the exam. However, we ask you to confirm that the work you are presenting for grading is your own work, which means that while you might be informed by discussion with others what you are presenting is written by you and not another. Remember that the Turnitin software will identify if there are significant similarities in the work submitted by two or more students.
Can I contact my lecturer on the day of the exam to ask for advice or clarification?
No. You should not make contact with your lecturer during the 24-hour period. This could potentially give you an unfair advantage over the other students taking the exam. If you believe that there is an error on the exam paper you should contact the Exams Officer (email@example.com)who will make enquiries and issue a clarification if necessary.
How will my answers be graded?
As with traditional exams, marks will be awarded for how well the questions were understood and answered. This will include assessing the clarity of the arguments put forward, the breadth and appropriateness of content/examples, the clarity of expression and the structure and organisation of the answer.
Will any account be taken of the exceptional circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are very aware of the practical and emotional challenges facing students during this time. We have asked students to make contact with their academic advisors and the support services to report particular issues that they have. Carlow College has always been mindful of the circumstances that can negatively affect students’ grades in continuous assessments and exams and will be especially mindful this year. Assessors and exam boards will, as they always do, pay particular attention to grades that are out of sync with the grades already achieved by students, especially in cases where students have already raised issues with us. We will do everything we can to make sure that students are not disadvantaged while maintaining the integrity of our progression and award criteria.
I have additional needs and was wondering if I will receive any exam accommodations.
If you are registered with the Academic Resource Office, they will be in touch with you to outline any exam accommodations. This may include extra time and/or a waiver for spelling and grammar. If you are concerned about this please make contact as soon as possible: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I cannot access Moodle on the day of the exam what happens in relation to my online examination?
You should check in advance of the exam period that you are enrolled on and can access the Moodle pages for your modules. If, for some reason, you cannot access the Moodle page at the start and end of the 24-hour period, you should contact Academic Administration immediately (email@example.com). They can email you the exam paper and can upload your answers if you are not able to do it. You should also contact the IT Office firstname.lastname@example.org to make them aware of the problem. These circumstances will be taken into account and each case will be treated on an individual basis by each assessor.
What if the Moodle system is not working on the day of my exam?
If a problem arises with the Moodle system every effort will be made to fix the problem as quickly as possible. We will contact any students who have exams at that time and will make arrangements for their re-scheduling if necessary.
Do I need a laptop? Is it possible to complete the exam on my mobile phone and upload the answers?
Yes, this is possible but you need to let us know before the exam. We can then advise you how best to proceed. For example, if you have difficulty uploading, you may be able to email your answers to email@example.com. You must include the name of the module and the numbers of the questions answered. It can then be uploaded to Turnitin on your behalf. In exceptional circumstances you may be allowed to write your answers by hand, photograph it and email that to firstname.lastname@example.org It also may be possible for you to record your answers. Please contact us in advance if you anticipate having to use any of these methods.
If I or one of my family falls ill or has some other emergency or if I cannot access Moodle or email on the day, what can I do?
You should make contact immediately with the Examinations Officer, Dr Candice Condon (email@example.com) . You will very likely qualify for an exam deferral which means you can take the repeat exam in August with no penalty. You do not need to provide medical certs or other documentation but can self-certify.
What happens if I submit my answers after the 24 hour period has expired?
If you have extenuating circumstances which affected your ability to submit within the timeframe you should contact the Exams Officer immediately (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you have no extenuating circumstances then the exam will have to be re-taken as a repeat and your mark will be capped.