My First University Architecture Exam Experience

June 26, 2024
Keith Zhang
Keith Zhang
United Kingdom
I am Keith Zhang, pursuing a bachelor's degree in architecture at Princeton University. I have learned architectural design, theory, and history, and mastered software tools like Rhino, Revit, Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, and AutoCAD.

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly altered everyone’s lives, and students have certainly not been exempt from this. This semester's architecture exams remained largely online as well, and navigating through this new format has been quite an experience, especially for someone studying architecture.

The Initial Daunting Feeling

Online examinations were definitely daunting at first because they were the ‘unknown’ for so many of us. The thought of applying my knowledge in areas like architectural design, history and theory of architecture, and building technology in an online format seemed overwhelming. However, the final overwhelming opinion from my friends and me seems to be that they really helped to alleviate exam stress and allow students to study for subject knowledge rather than to simply pass an exam.

Navigating My First University Architecture Exam Online

Preparation and Study Techniques

After sitting numerous online exams, I've realized that this format has been beneficial in allowing me to focus on the practical aspects of architecture. I found myself thinking less about the logistics of an examination and more about delving into the depths of architectural design and sustainable building practices. Having time to explore topics like computer-aided design (CAD), 3D modeling and rendering, and digital fabrication in greater detail was invaluable.

For instance, in preparation for my exam on CAD and 3D modeling, I spent hours perfecting my skills, which not only prepared me for the exam but also enhanced my overall design capabilities. I also explored virtual reality in architecture, using VR to visualize and present my design concepts more effectively.

Creating the Ideal Exam Environment

Perhaps the strangest part of the online format was sitting down at my desk rather than in an examination hall. I really benefited from the new circumstances and definitely felt less apprehensive. There was no exam hall, intimidating invigilators, or hundreds of students tapping their pens – the perfect examination conditions, if you ask me!

To ensure success, I created a study space that was conducive to concentration. I made sure my environment was quiet and free from distractions, with a reliable Wi-Fi connection and all my study materials on hand. I dressed fully and made sure I was well-fueled, avoiding the temptation to take the exam from my bed. Triple-checking my technology and having backup plans for any technical glitches also helped ease my mind.

Navigating the Exam Content

Online exams allowed me to explore the subject matter more deeply. Instead of cramming superficial information, I could focus on understanding complex topics such as energy-efficient design and green building standards like LEED. The open-book nature of some of these exams meant I could refer to my notes, which I had condensed into concise and reader-friendly formats. This not only made the exam process smoother but also provided a valuable resource bank for future projects.

Time Management and Stress Reduction

One of the biggest advantages of online exams was the reduced time pressure. In a traditional exam, I often felt rushed, making it hard to gather my thoughts and construct coherent answers. Online exams allowed me to take my time, ensuring my answers were well-considered and structured. This was especially helpful in subjects like urban theory, urban and regional planning, and public space design, where thoughtful analysis is crucial.

I spread my exams over several days, taking regular breaks to reorient my thoughts. This approach allowed me to fully engage with each subject, whether it was parametric design or climate-responsive design, and produce my best work.


There has been some controversy as to whether online exams are as effective as traditional ones. Personally, I praise the online assessment system. I find it less stressful, less complicated, and feel that it assesses capabilities beyond memorization. Engaging deeply with subjects like renewable energy systems and transportation planning has made me a better student and future architect.

In conclusion, my first university architecture exam experience, despite being online, was enriching and enlightening. The key is to stay calm, prepare thoroughly, and use the opportunity to delve deeper into your subject. Whether online or in person, doing your best is all anyone can ask of you.

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