Preparing For Open Book Exams

20th June 2017


For any student, an exam is a daunting prospect. You may feel a bit relaxed when you hear that it is an open book one. But the truth is just the opposite, just like you would prepare for any other exam, you need to study for open book exams too!!! Only if you know your subject thoroughly, you will have the knowledge base to apply to your questions.  You will also understand why and how the topics are linked. The difference is, rather than just memorising, open book exams require you to learn for understanding. The key thing to remember is that if you don’t study, you would not be able to answer your exam questions properly, be it a book or no book exam. An open book exam can be in the classroom or take home with questions unseen or seen before exam time.

 You should never underestimate the preparation needed for an open book exam. You should realise that your time is limited, so the key is proper organisation. Use tables of contents and index pages to locate relevant sections in your book. Bookmarking the sections will be useful. Also, prepare a flow chart to show how the topics are connected. In short, organise your materials so that you know where to find the answers to your questions and that you will not be going back and forth searching for answers during the exam.

For an open book exam, a large amount of materials might make you feel secure, but it will be better if could rely on no more than a few pages of notes. While preparing notes, work out the main theme, key concepts and make legible and brief notes. Also, use clear headings and organise notes by the topic. Familiarise yourself with your notes so that you can locate your answers easily without wasting time. Only take what you need, do not overload. Furthermore, find out about the materials you can take into the exam room, the time you have, the expected length of your answer, the type of questions asked whether it is an essay or short answers and whether you need references or not. Your tutor may provide you with some sample questions and do not forget to check out on some past exam papers in the Library.

If it is a take-home exam, collect notes, readings and resources well beforehand and neatly organise them in your study at home. Make sure you have enough paper pens etc. at home and set up a quiet area where you can concentrate, and work without any interruption. For a take home exam also you should find out the date and time, the place where you have to hand in the answers, the time you get, references, type of questions, etc.

When you prepare your notes, be it an open book or take home, do not waste time guessing possible questions and making model answers. Pre-prepared answers simply would not work. However, you should know the conceptual frameworks and should have some general conclusions in mind. If your exam is an online one, make yourself familiar with the program that you will be typing your answer in and make sure you have an average typing speed. If you don’t have typing speed work on it well before the exams!!!!

During the exam, the time is likely to be very less.  So, first answer the questions that you know without extensively referring to the materials. There may be sufficient time to quickly refer to materials and aim for concise, well-supported answers. If you have time to review at the end, you can check your materials more extensively and verify the accuracy of your answers, or you can find additional points. We wish you all success in your exams…

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