Open Book

If you think that open book tests are the easiest of all, think again. Underestimating the difficulty of open book exams and the amount of preparation needed is a mistake that many students make, one that often translates into poor grades. This article will talk a little more about this unique assessment method and strategies that can help you do well on an open book test.

What is it?

An open book test is one that allows you to use one or more types of reference materials to complete a test or exam. Some of the types of material that you may be allowed to bring into the exam room include textbooks, an entire set of class notes, or just a page of notes, which is often known as a cheat sheet. Take home exams are also classified as open book exams because they allow you to use any type of reference material that you choose.


Although you don’t have to memorize facts and figures the way that you would for a regular test, preparing for an open book exam is still essential. Before your test day arrives, you should:

  • Read over your text books and notes: You don’t have to memorize the material, but you should be familiar with it.
  • Make finding essential information quick and easy: Make a table of contents, use sticky notes, or develop another method to find important notes and textbook sections quickly.
  • Complete some practice questions, preferably ones found on past open book tests.

Taking an Open Book Test

Most general test-taking strategies, including examining the value of questions and using time efficiently, can also be applied to open book tests. The following strategies apply specifically to this type of exam, however.

  • Don’t simply copy from books and notes: Open book tests don’t merely involve copying information from your sources to answer questions. Instead, questions will ask you to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate information. While direct quotes can be effective, use them only when they directly pertain to the question, and make them only as long as necessary.
  • Concentrate on developing strong arguments: Many open book test questions will ask you to construct an argument to support a specific point of view. Concentrate on making this argument as strong as possible with dates, facts, studies, etc.
  • Include your own commentary: Including your own thoughts and observations is usually permissible as long as you can support them with objective evidence.

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