Exam on a plane


Written by Nozinhle

13 Dec 2021

Remember when I told you that the Swedish study experience has been nothing like I’ve experienced before? Well, it keeps getting better! So, yes, I did write an exam on a plane. And yes, I passed it! And before I tell you more about how that happened, you will be surprised to know that exams in Sweden can be quite the experience. Ever taken a 48-hour or 51-hour exam? Well, someone who studied in Sweden has.

Earning credits during studies

Generally speaking, the Swedish academic system has a friendly and relaxed approach towards earning credits for a particular course. In most schools, credits for a course are earned through coursework and a final exam. However, it is not uncommon to take courses that do not have final exams. One particular difference that I noted between my current and previous studies is that the final exams do not always contribute the most to the final grade. In most of the courses I have done so far, most of the credit comes from coursework.


One of the things I love the most about my Robotics and Automation programme is the emphasis that is put on practical work and independent study. This means, instead of spending hours in a lecture room being taught how something is done, I spend a significant amount of time doing practical work – which is awesome! This can be done either at the lab or using simulation software. Earning coursework credits varies with the discipline as well as the programme itself, so there is no ‘blueprint’ that applies to all courses. In my studies, for example, coursework credits are earned through:

  • Individual written assignments
  • Group written assignments
  • Individual practical exercises
  • Group practical exercises
  • Simulations
  • Seminar papers (Case studies)
  • Role-play
  • Presentations

Additionally, there is a lot of emphasis on independent study. This is great because it allows students to have more control over how they chose to spend their time. And for those of us who love to travel, planning trips is easier when you have a flexible study timetable. 🙂


It wasn’t until I came to Sweden that I stopped fearing exams. Don’t get me wrong. Exams are still a big deal and it is important to study and be well prepared for them. However, where traditionally when one says exams, the mind immediately thinks: desk, chair, quietness, stern-looking invigilator, and a truckload of tension, this is not always the case. Actually, in my case, it rarely is. The courses I have taken so far have had different exam formats. Theses are:

  • Practical exams – which are done at the lab and require the completion of a given practical task
  • Onsite online exams (or Closed-book exams) – conducted online (using Canvas) in a designated location at the school
  • Offsite online exams (or Open book exams)- conducted online (using Canvas) from a location of the student’s choosing. These usually run for a short period of time, that is, less than 5 hours.
  • Take-home exams – whic arealso done online and usually have a 24 hour (or more) window for submission

Now back to the story…

So how did I end up writing an exam on a plane?

aerial view of Lisbon Portugal
Photo: Nozinhle

The beginning

Well, this is the story. Normally, I wouldn’t plan a trip during the exam period. I’m crazy but not that much. If it were up to me, I would have scheduled the trip for after exams. But I got an opportunity to attend the Web Summit and I wasn’t going to miss it for the world. So the moment I knew that my exam was a take-home exam, I made up my mind that I would take the trip. I mean, one of the reasons I decided to move to Sweden for study is to get an opportunity to travel more. So, come early November and hello to Lisbon, Portugal! What an experience!

Web Summit Sign
Photo: Nozinhle

A Ticking Time-Bomb

Fast forward to 4 days later and the summit came to an end. The closing ceremony was on a Thursday. The exam was flighted on Canvas at 0700hr on Friday morning and was due for submission on Saturday at 1300hr, giving me 30 hours to complete. What followed next is the stuff of movies.

  • Friday 0700hr (30 hours to go) – Opened up portal and downloaded the Word document of the assignment. I read through it and and noted the key topics.
  • Friday 1000hr (27 hours to go) – Packing and getting ready to go to the airport. My flight was at 1400hr.
  • Friday 1200hr (25 hours to go) – Arrival at airport. Check-in for my flight was still not yet open so I spent the time going through lecture material
  • Friday 1300hr (24 hours to go) – Check-in and boarding
  • Friday 1400hr (23 hours to go) – Flight departure from Lisbon to Munich, Germany. I drafted some of the responses to the shorter questions during the flight. I wish I could say that this was easy – it wasn’t! Amidst the turbulence and limited space (and lots of coffee), there I was typing for dear life.
aerial view of Lisbon Portugal
Photo: Nozinhle

The Last Stretch

  • Friday 1700hr (21 hours to go) – Touchdown Munich! My flight to Gothenburg, Sweden was at 2100hr so I used the layover time to type away. It was hard trying to concerntrate when all I wanted to do was gaze at planes. Lol!
Typing exam at an airport
Photo: Nozinhle
  • Friday 2100hr (17 hours to go) – Departure to Gothernburg. This time I did not do any typing on the plane. I was tired and figured its better to rest than try and push it.
  • Friday 2300hr (15 hours to go) – Touchdown Gothernburg. Thereafter I had to take a bus from the airport to Gothenburg Central station, a train from the central station to Trollhättan and a taxi home.
Gothenburg Landvetter airport
Photo: Nozinhle
  • Saturday 0300hr (11 hours to go) – Finally got home. And took a 2 hour power nap.
  • Saturday 0500hr (9 hours to go) – Typed the final parts of the exam. Drank a lot of coffee. And typed and typed some more.
  • Saturday 1200hr (1 hour to go) – Submitted!! Finally, I submitted the exam with an hour to spare. Then I went to bed and slept for 10 hours straight!

The end

I honestly wouldn’t recommend gambling with your studies like this. The experience was thrilling but also very stressful! I only made it through because I prepared for the exam well ahead of time.

Would I do it again? Well…you never know!!

Till next time. Hej då!


Written by Nozinhle

13 Dec 2021