Kiosk Guides for Learning

That is a good book which is opened with expectation and closed in profit.
Amos Bronson Alcott,
1799 – 1888
American teacher/reformer

Testing with success series

Open book exams

In an open book exam
you are evaluated on understanding rather than recall and memorization.

You will be expected to

  • apply material to new situations
  • analyze elements and relationships
  • synthesize, or structure
  • evaluate using your material as evidence

Access to content (books, notes, etc.) varies by instructor.
The exam can be take home or in the classroom
with questions seen or unseen before exam time

Do not underestimate the preparation needed for an open book exam:
your time will be limited, so the key is proper organization in order to quickly find
data, quotes, examples, and/or arguments you use in your answers.


  • Keep current
    on readings and assignments in class
  • Prepare brief,
    concise notes on ideas and concepts being tested
  • Carefully select
    what you intend to bring with you to the exam,
    and note anything significant about what you do not
  • Include your own commentary on the information
    that will provide fuel for your arguments,
    and demonstrate that you have thought this through
  • Anticipate with model questions, but not model answers.
    Challenge yourself instead with how you would answer questions,
    and what options and resources you may need to consider.

Organize your reference materials, your "open book:"
Make your reference materials as user-friendly as possible so that you don't lose time locating what you need

  • Familiarize yourself
    with the format, layout and structure of your text books and source materials
  • Organize these with your class notes
    for speedy retrieval, and index ideas and concepts with pointers and/or page numbers in the source material
    (Develop a system of tabs/sticky notes, color coding, concept maps, etc. to mark important summaries, headings, sections)
  • Write short, manageable summaries
    of content for each grouping
  • List out data and formulas
    separately for easy access

Test taking:

  • Read the questions carefully
    to understand what is expected.
    Refer to our guide on Essay exam terms/directives
  • Make good use of time
    Quickly review the number of questions and note how much time each could take.
    First answer the questions that you are confident of and/or for which you will not need much time checking out the resources.
    Leave more complex and difficult questions for later
  • Don't over-answer
    Aim for concise, accurate, thoughtful answers that are based in evidence.

Use quotations

  • to illustrate a point, or act as a discussion point
  • to draw on the authority of the source
  • because you could not say it better

Quotations can be short
Three or four words can be extremely effective when they are worked into the structure of your sentence

A reference to a quote
may be as effective as the quote itself

Guard against over-quoting
It is your words and your argument;
extensive quoting may detract from your point or argument

Testing with success series

Test preparation series |
Ten tips for terrific test taking | Taking online tests | True/false tests |
Multiple choice tests | Short answer tests | Open book exams | Oral exams |
Essay Exams | Essay terms and directives | Math Exams

Writing assignments

Writing for the "Web" | The five-paragraph essay | Essays for a literature class |
Expository essays | Persuasive essays | Position papers | Open book exams |
Essay Exams | White papers | Lab reports/scientific papers | Research proposals
Seven stages of writing assignments

Derived with permission from the The Centre for the Development of Teaching and Learning, National University of Singapore
CongressLink:  Bloom's taxonomy definition of learning (and testing!) categories