At traditional universities you will sit for 3-hour exams for every subject. You will study for these exams in rote mode and you will forget at least 50% what you have learnt in this fashion within one week. You will remember very little after a year.
This is not how it works in the real world of work, you need to at least know where to find the knowledge to apply theory in the workplace. One clever dude said "Knowledge is of two kinds: We either know a subject ourselves or we know where to find information on it" and this is how we approach academic examinations. This is how we approach examinations, we want you to know where to find information, not remember it for just a few days.
Open Book Exams
Exams often form a big part of your academic assessment. As well as studying your course materials, there are many ways that you can prepare for exams to increase your confidence and help you take the right approach.
The purpose of open book exams is to provide you with a tool to familiarize yourself with the text book and relevant materials.
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 (text books, notes, etc.) varies by course. The exam can be take home, in a virtual learning environment 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 may 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
- 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/Exam, aka Quiz 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.