How to Study for an Open Book Test

Taking a Test
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Open book tests teach you how to find information when you need it and under a significant amount of pressure. 

Even more importantly, the questions are designed to teach you how to use your brain. And contrary to popular belief, you do not get off the hook when it comes to studying for an open book exam. You just need to study a little differently.

Open Book Test Questions

Most often, the questions on an open book test will ask you to explain, evaluate, or compare information from your textbook. For instance:

"Compare and contrast the different views of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton as they pertained to the role and size of the government."

When you see a question of this nature, don't bother scanning your book to find a statement that summarizes the topic for you.

Most likely, the answer to this question will not appear in a single paragraph in your text, or even on a single page. The question requires you to have an understanding of two philosophical views that you could only comprehend by reading the entire chapter.

During your exam, you will not have time to find enough information to answer this question well. Instead, you should know the basic answer to the question and, during the test, look for information from your book that will support your answer.

How to Prepare for an Open Book Test

If you have an upcoming open-book test, take the following steps to prepare.

  1. Read the chapters ahead of time. Don't expect to find quick answers during the test.
  2. Know where to find everything. Observe headings and sub-headings and make your own outline. This reinforces the structure of the text in your mind.
  3. Mark all important terms with sticky notes and flags. If the teacher allows it, mark your texts with these removable tags wherever you notice important concepts and terms. Be sure to ask first!
  4. Review lecture notes for themes. Your teacher's lectures usually provide an overview of the themes and concepts that appear on tests. You won't always get this by reviewing the book alone.
  5. Make your own notes if allowed, and write down important formulas or concepts that you’ve covered in class.

What to Do During the Open Book Test

First, evaluate each question. Ask yourself if each question requires facts or interpretations.

The questions that require facts may be easier and faster to answer. Fact-based questions will begin with expressions like:

"List five reasons . . ."
"What events led up to. . .?"

Some students like to answer the fact-based questions first, then move on to the interpretation questions, which require more thought and concentration.

As you answer each question, you will need to quote the book when appropriate to back up your thoughts. Be sure to quote only three to five words at a time; otherwise, you may find yourself copying answers from the book, which will result in a loss of points.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Study for an Open Book Test." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Fleming, Grace. (2020, August 26). How to Study for an Open Book Test. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Study for an Open Book Test." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).