How to Take an Open Book Test: 9 Steps

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How to Take an Open Book Test: 9 Steps
How to Take an Open Book Test: 9 Steps

An "open book test" is a test that allows you to bring the text or material you have studied. At first, you may think that you only have to look for the answer on the day of the test, and therefore you think it will be easy. However, this is not how this type of evaluation works. In fact, they are often difficult, as an open-book test requires a deep understanding of the material and being able to interpret, think critically, and present a well-written and organized response. However, with a little preparation, note-taking skills, and test-taking strategies, you can be successful in an open-book test.


Part 1 of 3: Prepare for the Test

Take an Open Book Exam Step 1
Take an Open Book Exam Step 1

Step 1. Understand the reasoning behind an open book test

This type of evaluation does not consist of memorizing and dumping knowledge on a sheet of paper. Instead, you will have all the information with you, but the questions generally require extensive research and reflection. Open tests allow you to teach students to take information and apply it thoughtfully and thoroughly. In these instances, it is not about memorizing the information, but about applying it. This means that you will not have to simply summarize the material in a textbook, but will have to interpret it in the context of specific questions and scenarios.

  • For example, in a Shakespeare class, you are unlikely to be asked "What is Romeo's last name?" But rather, "Using quotes, explain why Romeo's family contributed to his death."
  • There are generally two types of open book tests: restricted and unrestricted. In the first case, the material is limited to specific documents, such as a set of notes or a textbook. In the second case, there is no limit to the material that you can take to the test or to do it at home. Make sure you know if the test is restricted or unrestricted before taking it.
  • Memorization is unnecessary in an open book test. However, that doesn't mean you don't have to study. This is not the case. The focus is on understanding the material, rather than being able to memorize and recite it. The teacher will not ask you to define X, but to explain how it applies to situation Y or what the implications of X are for the current event Y. Make sure you fully understand the material before entering the classroom.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 2
Take an Open Book Exam Step 2

Step 2. Find and mark key information ahead of time

If the test allows you to carry a book with you, organize it in advance to find the information more easily and quickly.

  • If allowed, highlighters can be very good tools. Mark key terms, historical dates, equations, and other hard-to-remember things that you may need to answer the questions. This way, you can quickly flip through the book to find the highlighted sections during testing.
  • Notes in the margins can also be a good form of organization, if allowed. Jotting down your teacher's comments or short summaries of difficult paragraphs in the margins will help you find important materials faster.
  • Bookmark the pages. Many people turn the corner on important pages, but a single fold can be difficult to find. Invest in colorful sticky notes specifically designed to mark pages. You can buy them in many bookstores or department stores. You can even coordinate the colors you use to mark passages, using different colors to indicate different aspects.
  • In the case of a restricted test that does not allow the use of the textbook in the classroom, these strategies will still be useful. Organizing your book during the course of a class will help you find key information easier as you study.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 3
Take an Open Book Exam Step 3

Step 3. Make an effort to understand the material

Studying for an open-book test can be difficult, since the required skills are not as easy to test as simple memorization. However, there are tricks you can use to ensure that you are prepared for an open-book test.

  • Write your comments on the information. Since what is mainly evaluated is your interpretation, you can write your comments and views in the notes. Take on the challenge of explaining what you think of the material and why. This will allow you to sharpen the critical thinking skills that you will need in an open book test.
  • If your teacher gives you sample questions, answer them as you study. Open-book tests promote genuine understanding of the material, so answering these sample questions is an ideal way to ensure that you are prepared.
  • Form a group with other students. While study groups are great for any type of test, they can be very useful for open-book tests. Rather than asking questions about the materials, they can discuss information from the class. This will help them apply the information they have learned.

Part 2 of 3: Developing Note Taking Skills

Take an Open Book Exam Step 4
Take an Open Book Exam Step 4

Step 1. Attend all talks and classes

As obvious as it may seem, the best way to ensure that your notes are true to the study material is to attend all talks and classes on a regular basis.

  • Remember that studying for an open-book test is not about memorizing the material, but about understanding it in depth. Each teacher and teacher has a unique area of focus when it comes to covering reading materials. It is not possible to replicate your teacher's preferences if you only study the reading material; You must attend classes too!
  • If there is something you don't understand, take note. Many people make a mark, such as a large question mark, to indicate an area that they do not understand. Leave a section in your notes to complete later. Ask other classmates or email your teacher if you have difficulty understanding the concept.

    • There is nothing wrong with not understanding a subject; a good teacher will be happy if you have questions.
    • If you still have doubts with a topic, it is good to know. If you can choose between essay questions, quickly decide what topic to write about.
  • If your teacher talks fast, record the lectures. Of course, ask for permission first. As difficult as it is to record in an auditorium, you can always listen to the class afterwards to better understand the material. Some teachers record their lectures so that students can review or make up lectures.
  • In the event that you have to be absent due to illness or an emergency, ask a friend or colleague if you can copy their notes. Ask someone you know who takes good notes and is a dedicated student, rather than asking someone who is often absent and does not seem committed to the class.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 5
Take an Open Book Exam Step 5

Step 2. Organize your notes

You don't want to go to the test with a lot of papers that cover random figures and facts. Organize your notes during class and do it again as you prepare for the test.

  • Use a system for numbering and indenting your notes. Many people use uppercase Roman numerals for headings and lowercase for subtitles (for example, IV and i.v.).
  • Date all your notes. This way, you can find the topics that are confusing to you if you remember the approximate date of the year in which you have reviewed them in class.
  • Keep your class notes separate. Use a three-ring binder or notebook to separate notes from one class from another, or use a different notebook for each class.
  • Write in legible handwriting. If you know your writing is a bit messy, ask if you can bring a laptop to class to write your notes. However, you should be careful, since many teachers prohibit the use of laptops, since they think that students use them to not participate in class.
  • As much as you may be tempted to scribble during dull moments, you shouldn't do it, as you will be distracted while trying to study.
  • Put the material that is most difficult for you at the beginning of the notes. This way, you can easily access it during the test. Also, include equations, keywords, and dates at the beginning, as this information can be difficult to remember and will most likely be asked in the test.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 6
Take an Open Book Exam Step 6

Step 3. Focus on the important things

People are often tempted to transcribe almost the entire book or class as they prepare for open-book tests. However, this method is not only time consuming, it is not effective. You will most likely end up going through a lot of note sheets and wasting time during the test.

  • Pay attention to the points the teacher puts the most emphasis on during class. If something is written on the board, is repeated or debated for a long time, it is very likely that it will be included in the test. Therefore, include these topics in your notes.
  • Listen at the end of class. Often times, your teacher will provide you with a short closing that summarizes the most important learnings of the class day.
  • Compare your notes with your classmates. If certain topics repeat themselves, they may be important areas to focus your test notes. You will also be able to see which are the key issues that you may have overlooked.

Part 3 of 3: Take the Test

Take an Open Book Exam Step 7
Take an Open Book Exam Step 7

Step 1. Stay calm

Anxiety during a test can affect your performance, so make sure you have good strategies to calm your nerves in the classroom.

  • Stop studying an hour before the test and take the time to take care of yourself. Go for a walk or eat something light. If you study the material carefully before the start of the test, it is very likely that you will become nervous.
  • Know the time and place of the test, and reserve extra time to arrive. Losing yourself or being late are things that will increase anxiety and affect your performance.
  • Get a good night's sleep the night before the test. Anything that affects you on a physical level will affect you on a mental level, so make sure you get plenty of rest and feel refreshed before entering the classroom.
  • If you start to feel nervous during the test, take some time to stop. While time is of the essence, continuing the test despite anxiety will negatively affect your performance. Feel free to stop, close your eyes, and take a deep breath to calm yourself before continuing.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 8
Take an Open Book Exam Step 8

Step 2. Use testing techniques when you give it

There are many strategies you can use to make the most of your time during the test and increase your chances of getting a very good grade.

  • It is very likely that the test is by time. Take into account how much time you have and take a brief moment to calculate how much you should spend on each question.
  • Answer any questions that you can solve without your notes. This will save you time, since you will be able to answer some questions without reviewing your notes. Plus, you'll have more time to deal with more difficult questions that require you to look at your notes.
  • If you have a lot of difficulty with a question, treat it as you would any other test. Just drop it and go back to it at the end of the test, when you have had time to calm down and organize your thoughts.
Take an Open Book Exam Step 9
Take an Open Book Exam Step 9

Step 3. Check your answers, if you have time

If you have time to spare at the end of the test, review the questions one more time, taking advantage of your annotations.

  • Review the test and areas that include information that can be easily confused, such as dates, names, vocabulary, and equations.
  • Identify the questions whose answers you think are poor and try to improve them in the remaining time.


  • Even if it is a closed-book test, prepare a note sheet. You don't need to use it in the test, but it will serve as your study guide.
  • If you have questions or concerns about things you can and cannot bring to the classroom, feel free to speak with your teacher or professor to ask in advance.


  • Do not transcribe many notes, as it will be more difficult to find the information during the test.
  • Do not copy the verbatim information from the books. This is plagiarism, and you could fail the test and even the course, as well as face disciplinary action or sanctions.

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