Open-Book Tests

An open-book test is one in which you have access to your notes, textbook, and other sources of information during the test. Many students assume that these tests will be much easier than other test formats and, as a result, prepare inadequately.

Talk to your instructor about what materials are allowed during the open-book test. You want to prepare with the tools that you will be using during the test.

Preparing for Open-Book Tests

In general, there are two types of studying: studying to understand, and studying to remember. Understanding is an important activity that must take place before remembering.

Understanding in open-book tests

Studying to understand is the most important component of preparing for an open-book test. In order to ensure you understand the material, try some of these activities:

  • explain concepts to others;
  • discuss concepts in a study group;
  • come up with examples;
  • apply concepts to sample cases;
  • simplify information;
  • paraphrase definitions into your own words.

Remembering in open-book tests

  • Remembering activities are less important for open-book tests. If you have a strong memory, then you can try to memorize some information in order to save yourself time during the test, but it is even more important to be organized.
  • Use labelled tabs to help you find important information quickly and easily during the test.
  • Create condensed study notes or a reference sheet with relevant page numbers listed in case you need more detail.
  • When reading during a test you might feel a lot of pressure, which can make reading more difficult. Highlight keywords and important information to help you read during the test.

This Learning Curve video includes recommendations on how to be prepared for an open-book test.

Writing Open Book Tests

  • Budget your time — do not spend too much time looking up a single answer.
  • Take deep breaths when feeling anxious.
  • Make a plan or outline for long-answer questions before you start to look up information.


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