How to take an open book exam: 9 steps (with pictures)

How to take an open book exam: 9 steps (with pictures)
How to take an open book exam: 9 steps (with pictures)

An open book exam is a test during which you are allowed to bring your notebook. At first glance, you might think that all you have to do is look at the answers in the notebook when the day comes, and so it's a test, the easiest thing to do. However, this is usually not the way it works. This type of test is even very complicated most of the time, as it requires understanding the test well, thinking a lot and giving a concise and well-written answer. With a little preparation, exam strategies, and note-taking skills, you'll be able to do well on your next open book exam.


Part 1 of 3: Prepare for the exam

Take an Open Book Exam Step 1

Step 1. Understand the logic behind an open book exam

For this type of test, it is not enough to learn the course and return it on the sheet. On the contrary, you will have the information in front of you, but the questions you will be asked will require you to do a lot of research. The goal of an open book exam is to teach students to grasp information and apply it in a meaningful and precise manner. In such a test, it is not a question of memorizing information, but rather of applying it. It just implies that you won't just summarize the course, but interpret it in specific scenario and question contexts.

  • For example, you are unlikely to be asked in a Shakespeare lesson What is Romeo's last name. However, you may be asked. Using quotes, explain how Romeo's family contributed to his death.
  • There are usually two types of open book exams: restricted and unrestricted exams. The first requires using only specific documents, such as a single notebook or a single book. In the second type of examination, the candidate can use all the documents that he likes. Be sure to determine what type the exam is before taking the test.
  • It is really not necessary to memorize the course during an open book exam. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't study. This is not the way it is. The most important thing here is to understand the course, rather than being able to memorize it and recite it. For example, you will not be asked for the definition of X, but you will be asked how X applies in a case of type Y or what impact X has on an event Y. You must ensure that you have mastered the course before entering the room.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 2

Step 2. Before starting the exam, locate and mark the most important information

If you are allowed to bring your book to your exam, organize it so that you can find information quickly and easily.

  • If allowed, markers can be very useful. Mark key terms, equations, historical dates, and other information that is difficult to keep in mind and that you might need to answer questions. You will be able to leaf through your book and easily locate the places marked during the test.
  • If you have permission to do so, margin notes can also help you organize yourself. Jotting down difficult paragraph summaries or faculty comments in the margin can help you spot important parts of the lesson faster.
  • Mark the pages. Many people horn important pages, but a simply horny page can be hard to find. Try the sticky notes used to mark the pages. You can buy them in most bookstores. You can even coordinate the colors you use to mark a passage and use different colors to indicate the various important places.
  • In the event that this is a restricted exam where you are not allowed to bring a notebook, these techniques will still be useful. Organizing your notebook during class can help you locate the most important information when studying.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 3

Step 3. Make an effort to understand the course

It can be difficult to study for an open book exam, as the skills needed for this type of test are a bit more complex than just memorization. However, there are a few tips you can use to make sure you're ready for this type of testing.

  • Write your own comment about a piece of information. Since you will first be tested on your interpretation skills, write your own comments on your notes. Challenge yourself to explain what you think of the course and why. This will allow you to think more critically and this is the kind of skill you will need for an open book exam.
  • If the teacher provided sample questions, find an answer to them while you study. Open book exam questions require a thorough understanding of the course. Asking yourself typical questions is a great way to make sure you're ready.
  • Associate with other students. Apart from the fact that study groups are great no matter what exam you have to take, they are just as useful in open book testing. Instead of taking turns asking each other questions about a lesson, you can have a debate or discuss information obtained in class. This will allow you to learn how to apply the information you have learned.

Part 2 of 3: Developing Note-Taking Skills

Take an Open Book Exam Step 4

Step 1. Take all the courses

Even though it may seem obvious, the best way to ensure that the notes you take really reflect the course is to attend all sessions on a consistent basis.

  • Keep in mind that an open book exam does not just require you to memorize the course, but to fully understand it. Each teacher has their preferences when it comes to which textbooks to use. You cannot replicate your instructor's preferences by reading only the manuals. You must also take the courses.
  • In case you can't figure something out, write it down. Most people put a big question mark in places they don't understand. Create a blank in your notebook to fill in later. Ask your teacher or classmates for help if you are having trouble figuring out a part.

    • It is quite normal not to be able to understand something. A good teacher will be happy if you have any questions.
    • If you still have a problem with part of the course, that's okay. If you have a choice between essay questions, it would be good to quickly decide which one to tackle.
  • In case your teacher speaks quickly, it is a good idea to record the lesson, of course with their permission. Although it is difficult to record the lesson if you are in a lobby, you can always replay the tape after the session to better understand what was said. Sometimes some teachers also record the lesson, so you can catch up on the session or listen to it again.
  • In case you have to miss class because of an emergency or because you are ill, make sure you have a friend or classmate whose notebooks you can pass. Get someone who takes notes well and is serious, instead of someone who frequently misses class and is apparently not serious.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 5

Step 2. Organize the notes you take

You still don't want to go to your exam with tons of leaves classified as a jumble on you! Organize your notes during class and do it again while you are getting ready for the exam.

  • Use an indentation and enumeration method for your notes. Many people use Roman numerals, using upper case letters for headings and lower case letters for subtitles (eg IV and i.v.).
  • Date any notes you have. This will allow you to locate lessons that you could not understand if you can remember approximately in what month they were taken.
  • Don't put all your notes together. Use a gradebook or binder to separate one class's grades from another, or use a separate notebook for each class altogether.
  • Write legibly. If you are aware that your writing is sloppy, see if you can bring a laptop to class to take notes. However, be careful, as most teachers forbid such devices, as they say they only serve to distract the lesson.
  • Even if you sometimes feel like doodling during your bored moments, try to contain yourself, as these doodles will distract you when you want to study.
  • Put lessons that you have trouble understanding at the top of your grades. This will allow you to access it faster during the exam. It would also be good if you made a list of important dates, equations and terms before the start of the test, as this type of information can be difficult to keep in mind and can come out during the test..
Take an Open Book Exam Step 6

Step 3. Focus on What's Important

Sometimes we are tempted to transcribe virtually entire courses or books when preparing for an open book exam. However, this method is not only time consuming, but also ineffective. You will eventually not find yourself in the middle of a ton of pages of notes until the time runs out.

  • Pay attention to the aspects on which the attention is put during the lesson. If a question or lesson plan comes up often or the teacher discusses it at length during the session, it will come out during the exam. Include these course explanations in your notes.
  • Pay attention at the end of the lesson. Teachers often summarize the most important points of the course.
  • Discuss your notes with your classmates. While some subjects relate to others, this is an important area on which you should focus your marks for the exam. You can also see the important parts that you might have missed.

Part 3 of 3: Take the exam

Take an Open Book Exam Step 7

Step 1. Keep Calm

The anxiety you feel during the exam can affect your work, so be sure to know effective ways to stay calm in the exam room.

  • Stop studying a few hours before the exam and use that time to take care of yourself. Eat something light or go for a walk. If you continue to study a subject right before an exam starts, you are likely to get confused.
  • Familiarize yourself with the location and schedule of the exam, and be sure to be there well in advance. If you get lost or arrive late, it can increase your anxiety and affect your performance.
  • Get a good night's sleep the day before the exam. Anything that impacts your physique can also affect your mind, so be sure to be fresh and sharp before you go for the exam.
  • If you start to get nervous during the exam, take a break. Even if your time is limited, immersing yourself in an exam even when you are anxious will only cause you to do wrong. Feel free to take a break, close your eyes, and breathe deeply several times to release the pressure. After that, you can continue.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 8

Step 2. Use strategies during the exam

There are a variety of tips you can use to get the most out of your composition time and improve your chances of getting better grades.

  • Your open book exam may be timed. Take note of the time allotted and quickly calculate how many minutes you will need to spend on each question.
  • To get started, try answering the questions without looking at your notes. This will save you time, as you will have answered some questions without digging into your notes. It will also give you more time to deal with more difficult questions that would require you to consult your notes.
  • If a question really gives you a hard time, treat it as you would any exam. Just move on to the next question and come back to it when you have finished the test and have plenty of time to calm down and think about it.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 9

Step 3. If you have enough time, proofread your copy

If you still have time at the end of the exam, review the questions again using your notes. It will help you.

  • Go through the entire paper and check the parts where there is information that can be easily misspelled, including names, equations, dates and terminology.
  • Go back to any question where you felt you gave an insufficient answer and try to add more elements in the time that you have left.


  • It would be good if you put together a description sheet, even if it is a closed book exam you are taking. You won't have to use it during the test, but it makes a great review guide.
  • In case you have any questions or concerns about what you can and do not bring to the exam, please do not hesitate to contact your teacher or instructor first for more details.


  • Do not take too many notes, as this may make it difficult to find the information you are looking for during the test.
  • You simply cannot copy out the information that is in your notebook verbatim, that would be plagiarism. It could also cause you to fail the test and even lead to disciplinary action.

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