A guide to open book exams

How to do well in open book exams

Taking your book into an exam may sound great, but in reality there is a lot of preparation required and it’s important to study for an open book exam just as you would for any other.

So how can you do this successfully? Check out our tips below. 

Understand the material

An open book exam requires you to understand, evaluate and apply ideas and concepts rather than just remembering them. So with this in mind, study just as you would for any other exam ensuring you understand the key topics.

Prepare thoroughly

Your time during the exam is still limited, so you don’t want to waste it by looking up concepts and reading. Be up-to-date on all readings and prepare brief notes on the main ideas and concepts.

Use post-it notes

To help you locate information quickly when you are in the exam, prepare your material by using post-it notes to mark key chapters or highlight key words.

Don’t overload 

Carefully select the material you intend to bring to the exam and don’t overload on materials. Try to take only what you think you will need so you don’t waste time searching through endless textbooks.

Create an index of your study materials

Make sure your reference materials are as user-friendly as possible. Start by familiarising yourself with the format, layout and structure of your textbooks and source materials. Index ideas and concepts with pointers and page numbers and write short, manageable summaries of the content.

Don’t rush

In the exam, make sure you read the questions carefully (several times) to make sure you understand what is expected. Make good use of your time by reviewing the number of questions and note how much time you should spend on each one.  

Don’t forget these tips to do well in open book exams:

  • Study an open book exam like you would any other exam
  • Understand the material and the key concepts
  • Be selective in the materials you take in
  • Index your materials as you go through the semester


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