How To Take an Open-Book Exam

An open book exam may sound like a walk in the park, but most of the time, it's among the hardest tests that one will take. Students usually think that because the book is available as reference material, the test will be a snap. However, due to the open book nature of the examination, most teachers use this as a license to make the exam as hard as possible, and would usually ask questions that require analysis. So even if your book has all the references and facts, you might have to focus on intelligent answers, rather than just copy details out of the book.

Here are the steps that you can take before and during an open book exam.

Before the exam

  1. Prepare extensively for an open book exam. As stated above, open-book exams tend to be harder because teachers are less likely to ask analytical questions. Most open book exams are in essay form or in another format that would require extensive analysis of concepts that may be present in the book, but require deep thinking from the test-taker.
  2. Clarify with the professor which types of material can be brought to the examination room. Sometimes, only specific textbooks would be allowed into the testing area. Sometimes, your professor would let you bring in your class notes. Try to make sure if publications such as journals, magazines and newspapers would be permitted. If reviewers and lecture notes would be allowed, you may want to try preparing these before the exam.
  3. Scan through your reading materials and take note of the important chapters per topic. Ask your professor if you will be allowed to use markers such as bookmarks and post-it-notes to let you quickly flip to the appropriate pages as you're taking the exam.

During the exam

  1. Arrange your reading materials on your desk before reading the test paper.
  2. The main idea in taking an open book exam is to supplement your core knowledge of the topic with other information derived from your reading materials. Write down your main answers on a separate sheet of paper before writing down the final answer on the answer sheet. Do your best to consolidate your answers by trying to see how you can integrate your stock knowledge with the information from the books and publications.
  3. Make sure that you're doing great in terms of time management. Divide the total time allotted between each of the items in the exam. This should give you an idea about how many minutes you can spend per question. Habitually check the time on your watch to make sure that you're on pace to finish the exam before time is up.
  4. Review your answers once you're done.

Just remember that open book exams do not give you the right to slack off before the exam. Prepare for it the same way you would for regular exams. In most cases, you should prepare for essay type questions that would require analysis and synthesis of the facts and details already available in your textbook.


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