Oxford Online Prelim Exam Experience

By Charlotte Avery





I am a first year Experimental Psychology student and I have just completed my first set of big exams since being here – prelims, which are the exams sat at the end of first year on all the content learnt so far in the degree. Whilst they do not count towards the final grade of your degree, they are an important marker of progress and how you’ve taken to university style learning.


Psychology is one of the few subjects that have prelims at the end of this term (Hilary), with most subjects having them at the end of the Trinity (third/summer) term. This meant that I was the first of my peers to experience these big university exams.


I was fortunate enough to be allowed back into college accommodation this term, meaning my experience with prelims was more normal than most, but still a strange one. All exams were online, so I completed them in my room in college instead of in Oxford’s iconic exams hall.


Preparing for exams involved days spent in my college library, plenty of mind maps and post-it-notes, and a few of slices of toast kindly provided by my friends to accompany my revision. Being a part of the 2020 A Level cohort who had exams cancelled last year, these exams were especially strange, as they were the first proper set of exams I had sat since my GCSEs.


The set-up of online exams was unfamiliar but went smoothly on the day. I felt I was able to try my best even with the situation of online learning and exams.


My advice to those completing online exams in the near future would be:


- Revise the way you would for ‘normal’ exams: they still test your knowledge just the same.

- Test the technology a few days before: knowing how it’ll work on the day is a great way to calm nerves.

- Tell those living with you when your exams are so they know to keep the noise down for you.

- Take time to relax: it’s easier said than done, but staying calm allows you to perform your best, and your wellbeing is just as important in exam season as it is the rest of the year.


Following these exams, I was ‘trashed’ by my friends, a post-exam tradition that involves being covered in all sorts of things whilst wearing ‘sub fusc’ (the traditional Oxford academic dress). In my case, this involved champagne, shaving foam, flour, watercolour paint, and party poppers. It offered something to look forward to after a week of exams and was an amazing conclusion to my second term at Oxford!