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Open Book Exam – What it Means and How to Prepare for it?

Published by at January 27th, 2023 , Revised On October 11, 2023

Open book exams are generally taken in January, April, and May. However, at some universities, you may not be required to take these exams at all; instead, you will be asked to complete a coursework assignment.

Open book exams are conducted at the end of the holidays period, which means that you will have sufficient time in hand to prepare for them.

What is an Open Book Exam?

As the name suggests, in an open book exam, you can bring study material and text to the examination hall. This may sound as if open book exams are a piece of cake because you can easily pull out the answer to any question from your study notes, but this is not how they work.

Open books exams are quite different from traditional university exams where you expect endless rows of students gathered in a large hall, heads down for three hours, with no noise of notes allowed. You can expect everything to be quite the opposite when taking an open book exam.

Since the Covid-19 arrived on the world scene, most universities now require students to take open book exams using their tablets or computers away from the premises of the university.

You can expect to be spending the same three hours on the open book exams as you would spend on any other exam taking place in an examination hall. However, you could be allowed up to 24 hours to complete and submit the exam in some cases. The additional time covers any technical issues you may come up against during the exam, such as poor internet speed and different time zones.

What Are the Types of Open Book Exams?

There are four main types of open-book exams: case study exams, oral exams, multiple-choice exams, and essay exams. Below you will find a brief explanation for each kind.

Case study exams are a unique type of open-book exam and involve investigating a practical problem that students must solve independently by applying their knowledge from the course material.

Oral exams – If you are studying linguistics, social science, and humanities subjects, you can expect to take several oral exams during your degree progamme. In an oral exam, the examiner will ask you questions that test your ability to apply your knowledge from the course material in an instant fashion.

Masters and PhD level dissertations where students are required to defend their thesis also involve oral exams in the form of a question-and-answer session.

Multiple choice questions – They may sound effortless, but they are not. Multiple choice question exams consist of several questions, with each question providing multiple answers. You will need to select the correct answer from the available options.

Be careful with this type of open book exam because your tutor could provide some possible answers that may appear to be correct, but they would be designed to test your application of skills and attention to detail.

Essay exams are perhaps the most common type of open-book exams and require students to answer short or long essay questions. Essay exams are designed to evaluate students’ knowledge of the key ideas and concepts delivered during the lectures.

You will be given 2-3 hours to complete all the essay questions. Your answers should address the question in a comprehensive manner whereby you exhibit your understanding of the topic.

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How to Prepare for the Open Book Exam?

You can prepare for an open book exam by studying the course materials before the exam takes place. While you will be allowed to bring your course materials and text to an open book exam, it doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore the pre-exam preparations.

Because you will be allowed to bring the course material to the exam, the examiner will be expecting you to apply your knowledge more specifically and critically. Here are some tips for you to prepare for the open book exam.

Understand the purpose of an open book exam – Open book exams are unique in the sense that they allow students to bring learning material to the examination hall, and apply it to answer the question in a critical yet insightful manner. You will not need to memorise information for an open book exam rather apply it by summarising material from the reading text.

Find and mark key information in advance – If time permits, you should arrange to mark key information on your textbook or reading notes beforehand so you don’t have to spend too much time finding that information during the exam. Consider using a highlighter, margin notes, and page marking technique to organise the text material before the exam takes place.

Dig deep to read the material and polish your knowledge – Preparing for an open book is a little different from usual exams which require students to memorise important information by heart. The skills required to prepare for an open book exam include teaming up with other students and having an intelligent discussion around the topics that are likely to be covered in the exam, answering model questions and past open book exam papers, and writing your own commentary, interpretations, and insights on the information.

Developing Note Taking Skills

Notes taken by during the class are open untidy and disorganized which makes little sense when you use them for revising for the exam. If notes were produced carelessly or hurriedly, you will not be getting a lot of help from them.

When preparing for an open book exam, it is recommended that you write your exam preparation notes in a tidy and organised manner so they truly assist you in finding the required information in the least possible amount of time. You could use a highlighter, sticky notes and table of contents page, and a list of figures and tables page for this purpose.

Taking the Open Book Exam

  • Make sure that you are in a relaxed frame of mind on the exam day and practice to keep your nerves in control as anxiety can be your biggest enemy on the day.
  • Exam day panics are well known to affect students’ performance, so it is recommended to stop studying for the exam at least an hour before the exam starting time.
  • Get ready for the exam and reach the examination hall at least 15 minutes before the exam time. Getting late for the exam could cost you dearly.
  • Avoid being tired by getting a good night’s sleep before the exam.

Getting Open Book Exam Help from ResearchProspect

This article aimed to help you understand how to properly prepare for an open book exam so you can achieve the highest possible academic grade. But it’s easier said than done. You will be required to start your preparation for the exam well before the exam date.

If you fear that you will not do so well in an open book exam and need help with preparing notes for it, then our experts are just a click away. Place your order for our exam notes service by completing this simple and quick order form, and leave the rest to our experts.

Frequently Asked Questions

An Open Book Exam allows students to refer to textbooks, notes, or other resources during the test. It tests their ability to find and apply information, not just memorise it.

About Jamie Walker

Avatar for Jamie WalkerJamie is a content specialist holding a master's degree from Stanford University. His research focuses on the Internet of Things, as well as areas such as politics, medicine, sociology, and other academic writing. Jamie is a member of the content management team at ResearchProspect.