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A guide to open book exams

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So, your exam is now open book. Great! But what is an open book exam? And how can you best utilise your resources when taking an open book exam? Keep reading to find out.

A female works on a laptop with a notepad beside her

What is an open book exam?

An open book exam allows you to use resources such as notes, textbooks or other approved materials, while you are taking the exam.

An open book test usually asks you to apply what you know to a case or scenario, rather than asking what you recall. Most times, you’ll have the course content in front of you with the main theories, laws, content or information.  Open book exams test your ability to adequately find relevant information, analyse it, understand it, and apply it.

Due to this, questions are sometimes set up in an essay-style format or you can be provided with a hypothetical situation that you must solve using your course knowledge. However, question structure can vary depending on your course.

Common misconceptions about open book exams

There are many misconceptions about open book exams. Make sure you don’t fall victim to any of these to ensure yourself the best exam possible.

  1. Open book exams are easier than closed book exams

This is not the case at all. Although you may have all the key information you need in front of you, you will still need the ability to apply it effectively.

  1. You can copy information from the book or resources provided

This is plagiarism! Do not copy directly from the resources you have been provided, you must apply the information you have found just as you would when completing an assignment.

  1. You don’t need to study as the information is provided

Study for open book exams the same way you would for any other exam. Having a sound understanding of the content will help you effectively answer your exam questions. In open-book exams, it is important you know where information is located so you don’t spend all your time searching for content. Make a notes page of key topics and what page of your textbook you can find them on for optimum efficiency.

  1. Take in as many resources as you can

During an open book exam, you want as much information with you as you can. However, too many books or notes can result in a cluttered and confusing workspace. Try to condense this into succinct notes pages so your workspace does not become overcrowded with resources. Select your materials carefully when deciding what to utilise during an open book exam.

Whether you’re preparing for your first open book exam, or have taken them in the past, it is important to understand what you may be faced with and prepare accordingly. Don’t fall victim to any misconceptions and study your course content to be sure you have given yourself the best chance of success!

Written by public relations student Taysha Sullivan