Preparation for Time-Limited Open book Exams

PLEASE NOTE: This information should be read in conjunction with the Preparation for Online Time-Limited Exams. This section is focused on online essay-style question open book examinations.  Please confirm carefully with your module coordinator that yours is an open book exam as closed book exams will also be held this summer. You may not use any study materials, books or the internet in a closed book exam.

An open book exam allows you to use study materials, internet and books while doing your exam. This can take place either in a normal exam setting or it can also be used for an online exam/assessment instead of traditional formal written exams. In an online ‘Open Book’ exam, you will submit your work digitally via Canvas and work remotely within the time allocated for your exam. Open book exams are not so much a test of memory but look to test your understanding of the topic and your application of knowledge to construct an argument to answer the exam question(s).


What to expect from a Time-Limited Open-Book Exam?

Open book exams do not seek to examine rote memorisation or recall, but they focus on higher level understanding. This means they test the application, translation or transfer of knowledge to new areas than simply testing the knowledge itself. You have access to all the necessary knowledge through your study materials and books, so lecturers will not simply ask questions for which you can copy the answers.

Open book examinations focus more so on the “big picture” of your field of study and how the different concepts from the course might work together. It is also possible that you will be given new module-related information or scenarios and may have to interpret these. Similar to traditional exams, your lecturers are still looking for well-structured and presented solutions or arguments

Common misconceptions:

"An open book exam is easy, as I have all the material to hand!"

Despite having all your study materials to hand while doing your exam, these exams are by no means easier than traditional exam and answers are not easy to find. Your lecturer will ask less “book” knowledge but rather the application of this knowledge. Furthermore, you need to prepare as much for an open book exam as for a traditional exam and good time management skills during the preparation and the exam itself will stand you in good stead (please refer to the time management online PDF for more help with that).

"I will not have to study for an open book exam as I will have everything I need next to me"

You will have to study and familiarise yourself with all of the material that is going to be examined so that you can access it efficiently throughout the exam. Remember, the majority of the marks will be awarded where you demonstrate your understanding of the topic and not how fast you can copy quotes. You can draw on different documents and resources but you will need to bring them together using your own words to form a coherent argument or solution.

How to study for an Open Book Exam?

  • You have to study and prepare for an open book exam like you would for any other exam
  • Don’t count on having enough time to look up everything you did not learn! Like traditional exams, open book exams will have a time-limit
  • Note-Taking
    • Make good notes; Keep them engaging and easy to navigate
    • Having well-organised notes will cut down the time you need to find the right information during the exam
  • Books and Notes
    • Working from books? Mark the most important sections with sticky notes
    • Only if the book is yours, highlight important passages in the text
  • Online Books
    • Get acquainted with the programme you use to read books in digital formats
    • See if they have some note-taking and/or highlighting and bookmarking functions (e.g. My Study Bar)

TIP: Find out from your department or lecturer whether you have to list the sources you consulted during the exam and, if so, prepare the list of sources for yourself. That will save you time during the exam itself.

Your exam will be submitted through Turnitin, therefore all normal procedures regarding plagiarism must be observed.  You can draw on different documents and resources but will need to bring together using your own words.  Remember also that collusion – cooperating with other people during the exam - is a form of plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism – where you resubmit work previously marked – is also a form of plagiarism.  All forms of plagiarism is considered to be serious academic misconduct.  All suspected forms of plagiarism will be subject to procedures as laid out in the UCC Plagiarism Policy.

UCC Skills Centre Radio Show: All about exams

Episode Five: All about Exams

This week we are delighted to go through some exam preparation. We are thrilled to welcome Dr Eithne Hunt and Dr Edel Semple to the studio for their advice. Caroline Schroeter, Patricia O’Connor, Loretta Goff, and Kristina Decker welcome Kathy Bradley, Skills Centre Coordinator, back to discuss exam time and the Skills Centre Exam Bootcamp.


Exam related videos from the 'Gimme Two Minutes' series!

The Skills Centre 'Gimme Two Minutes' video series, available for viewing on YouTube, focuses on very basic concepts related to the academic writing and preparation skills, delivered by the University College Cork Skills Centre in a short and visual format. These videos can be used as self-learning tools and give you a taste of what sessions and workshops the Skills Centre offers to UCC students.

Useful videos from the 'Minute Methods' video series

This series is brought to you by the Skills Centre Avatars Joey, Millie, Steve and Eunice. The avatars have spent time with the Skills Centre tutors to create short snappy videos that will help you to develop good study habits and academic writing etiquette, all in just one minute.