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In-Person Exam


A high-stakes closed-book exam, often occurring at the end of a period of learning to assess whether students have achieved the intended learning outcomes. It takes place in-person and is timed, and generally located in an exam centre. Students have no access to learning materials/resources for the duration of the exam.

What can it assess ?

There are many different types of examination questions, for example, essay style, problem solving, calculational, case studies, short answer questions and quizzes (see also Quizzes). Based on the question(s) used the outcomes can range from the demonstration of knowledge to more complex tasks such as applying, discussing, debating, evaluating and critiquing concepts. Given the time-limited conditions of the exam, it may also assess, to some extent, how students perform in a time constrained context.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • The exam is a very familiar assessment type to students and staff
  • It's considered useful where there are concerns around academic integrity
  • Allows different questions types.


  • Can be a source of anxiety for many students 
  • Relies heavily on student memory skills, and tends to be poorer for assessing skills such as critical analysis which require more time
  • Often require proficient hand writing skills; a skill less practiced by today's students 
  • It’s not an authentic assessment as it’s unlikely that students would have to complete similar tasks in their future careers.

Design and Online Assessment Considerations


While examinations are usually closed book, consider whether there is value in allowing students access to some resources/books. This reduces the reliance on memory skills. Based on the teaching and learning approaches employed in the module, ensure you align the question format(s) with these approaches, such as essay style, problem solving, calculational, case studies, short answer questions and quizzes. Base the questions on your module learning outcomes.

In designing the exam questions, share early drafts with colleagues to ensure that the questions are clear and unambiguous. Avoid long complex questions, double negatives and colloquialisms that some students, such as international students, may find difficult to understand.

If the examination needs to be included in the UCD scheduled exams timetable ensure that the Assessment Unit is fully informed of the nature and duration of the exam. For locally arranged exams, see UCD Assessment unit advice.

Online Assessment 

Generally speaking, in-person exams that are held in a designated exam centre (e.g. RDS or Blackrock) do not require any technology. 

Preparing Students

Give students clear guidance on the nature, formats and the suggested timings for the different questions. Provide opportunities for them to practice similar questions beforehand in class. Share and discuss the criteria that will be used for grading the examination.  Alert student to the UCD supports services and UCDSU Exam Support and in addition the student code of conduct required for examinations.

Learn More 

The following are some key resources that are currently available if you would like to learn more about this key assessment type.