How to Study for an Open Book Exam?

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Are you preparing for an open book exam and often wonder what it’ll look like? Here’s an article that offers all the information about open-book exams. Unlike regular exams that require memorizing and recalling exam topics, open-book exams allow you to enter the exam hall with notebooks and other materials.

But don’t be deceived; it doesn’t mean the exams are walkover exams. Is an open-book exam easy? Can you fail an open-book exam? We’ll discuss the answer to all these below, but before then, let’s explain what an open book exam is.

What is an Open Book Exam?What is an Open Book Exam?

An open-book exam is a type of assessment where students can use certain materials for the exam. Depending on the specific exam and whether it is on-site or at home, the amount of material you can assess may be limited. However, you’ll still be able to enter the exam location with some material (textbooks, study materials, etc.)

Memory and organizational skills are the top required skills for this kind of exam. Thus, students are expected to memorize different textbook pages to determine which page to turn to for each question. In most cases, teachers have the right to question absolutely anything related to the subject (whether they’ve been taught in class or not).

Open-book exams are typically designed to test students’ ability to assimilate and integrate data thoughtfully and thoroughly. Thus, the questions are not targeted at testing learning and knowledge.

What Type of Questions are Asked in Open Book Exam?

What Type of Questions are Asked in Open Book Exam?

Perhaps, the first step to knowing how to study for an open book exam is to understand the kind of questions you should expect in it. Instructors know that you’ll be going into the exam venue with textbooks and other relevant materials, so it’s very unlikely that they’ll set questions that just call on you to directly copy information from the textbook.

Instead, most open-book exam questions are centered around application, analysis, synthesizing, comparison, or information evaluation. They are designed to test your understanding of the “big picture” and real-world application of concepts.

For example, a question may state a problem or scenario and ask you to apply concepts from several parts of the course to develop the answer to the question.

Most instructors in this kind of exam are concerned about the structure and presentation of your arguments or solutions. The questions are typically more challenging than other exams, and instructors are likely to expect more regarding the quality of your answers since you’ll go into the exams with available materials to draw from.

5 Preparation Techniques and Study Plan for an Open Book Exam

5 Preparation Techniques and Study Plan for an Open Book Exam

Can you fail an open-book exam? The answer is yes. People still fail open book exams because instructors look beyond your answers to your organization skills and more. But that’s not to scare you, as there are preparatory techniques to help you perform well in such exams. After interviewing several test-takers and exam experts, here are our top 5 preparatory techniques to help you ace an open-book exam.

Preparation is key

Most open-book exams have questions focusing on higher-level learning. This means that instructors look beyond your ability to memorize and recall notes. They want to see how well you understand the subject matter. That’s why they’ll typically ask you to compare, formulate, evaluate, analyze, or synthesize information. Consequently, you’ll find that open-book exams are a tad more difficult than regular exams, even though it allows you to use reference materials. The challenging nature of open-book exams means you’ll need to prepare more. Don’t assume that it’ll be easier because you’ll be allowed to use materials. Instead, approach preparation as you’ll for any other test type.

Avoid placing too much emphasis on reference materials

One mistake we see too often in this type of exam is students over depending on reference materials. Yes, you’ll be allowed to use reference materials, but the instructor wants to see beyond your ability to copy. They want to see how you organize your answers and present your arguments. Besides, open-book exams are typically timed, and you know how time-consuming it can be to check through bulky textbooks/materials. Don’t expect to have enough time to search through the different materials available for the course.

If you can, understand as many parts of the resources as possible during preparation, so you don’t need to search too much for answers. You can also summarize essential points on a separate sheet of paper to make reading easier.

Familiarize yourself with key concepts

As a follow-up to the above point, it makes sense to know the most important concepts beforehand. This way, you can familiarize yourself with them since you’ll see one or more questions on them. Since open-book tests are typically timed, you’ll benefit a lot from being able to just write about concepts from your understanding. Besides, it also helps you avoid plagiarism.

Practice related questions

Again, effective studying goes beyond just reading through notes. Yes, you’ll be able to reference materials in the exam hall, but you also want to know how to handle the questions. Start by learning how to highlight themes, organize ideas, and make connections. Beyond that, study past questions on the particular exam you’re preparing for. That way, you’ll understand the dynamics of the questions and how you should structure your answers.

Make a system

Although often underrated, one of the most critical preparatory techniques is creating a system for quickly finding information. Remember that materials are typically bulky, and searching through them can be difficult. Here are some tips to help you develop a workable system:

  • Set up a mock test-writing space, so you can master being able to flip through pages with limited arm space.
  • Put your note in a binder to make shuffling easier.
  • Use physical dividers to create sections in your note, so you can easily jump to relevant sections.
  • Create a table of contents that points you to topics and page numbers.

Are Open Book Exams Easier or Harder?

Are Open Book Exams Easier or Harder?

The truth is that open-book exams are not easier than regular exams. Often, they are even more complicated. Yes, you can go into the exam hall with notebooks and other materials, but open-book exams are designed to test your ability to really understand the material. Beyond that, it tests your ability to analyze and apply information rather than just memorize it. So it’s typically more difficult than most people envision.

Pros and Cons of Open Book Exams

Pros and Cons of Open Book Exams

Now that we’re clear on what an open-book exam is, you’re probably wondering whether it’s suitable for your students. The first step to determining whether an open-book exam is right for any scenario is to know the pros and cons of open-book exams. Here are some open-book exam pros and cons you should know.

Pros of Open Book Examination

  • Less challenging to recall: the most obvious advantage of open book exams is the ease of recollection. Students don’t have to think too hard to recall information since they can easily look it up.
  • Eliminating mechanical learning: many education experts have found open book exams as an active, effective way to eliminate mechanical learning since they focus on critical thinking and developing analytical skills.
  • Improves problem-solving skills: since questions are typically set to test students’ understanding of concepts, you can expect students to be able to apply the concepts better to solve day-to-day issues.
  • Provides a second chance: this type of exam provides students another chance to obtain knowledge before moving past a grade level.

Cons of Open Book Exams

  • Hard to judge preparatory efforts: the exam format makes it difficult to judge whether all students have equally prepared for an exam. Besides, since some books are very costly, only a few students may have them for the exams.
  • Requires more desk space: Unlike regular exams, you’ll have many books and materials on your desk. These books can quickly take up desk space, leaving you with little room to write.
  • Time-consuming: we can’t overemphasize that this type of exam can be more time-consuming. Unless you’ve figured out a way to easily skip through pages, you may find it difficult to search for information.

Wrapping Things Up: How to Study for an Open Book Exam?

You can enter an open-book exam with materials, but that doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, many people believe that it is more difficult than a regular exam because questions typically require applied answers. Besides, it takes so much time to search through the pages of different materials. So, it makes sense to know how to prepare. That’s not to say there are no pros. We’ve reviewed some of the pros and cons of an open-book exam and useful tips to help you prepare better for the exam.

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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