Open book examinations - guidance for students

What is an open book exam?

Open book or take home exams permit you to access your learning materials during the time allocated for that assessment. You will be able to refer to your notes, books and other resources that you have available to answer the questions. This does not mean that the exam will be easier or require less preparation.

An open book assessment aims to assess your critical application of the course material. It will test your understanding of what you have learnt and your application of that knowledge.

Having access to your notes may sound like an easier assessment, however the exam will still require your attention and will also call for a similar amount of preparation to traditional exams.

For more information check out the University’s library information on 'Open book assessments - what to expect and how to prepare.'

Before the examination

How to prepare

  • You still need to prepare and study for an open book examination.
  • Don’t expect that you’ll have time to review your notes, read through textbooks or do extensive reference searches during your exam.
  • Write down important facts, key information, formulas and data on a separate sheet to have to hand during the exam.
  • Organise your key reference materials for the topic in advance and use highlighters, tabs, sticky notes to help you retrieve the information quickly.
  • More isn’t always better – focus your preparation on a few useful references
  • Replicate exam conditions in your environment, clear desk, test IT connection, ensure comfort and privacy and have a clock/alarm device to view.
  • If your programme has provided rehearsal opportunities, make sure you have a practice at accessing and submitting the examination so that you aren’t doing it for the first time during the exam.
  • You may have exams scheduled for a 48-hour window or longer and it is possible you may have multiple exams to complete during the examination period. Consider planning when you will complete your examinations within the period.

What to expect

  • Read through the examination guidance provided for that exam in advance. It should have information about date, duration, submission requirements.

Remember the rules

  • You are expected to complete the exam independently and not confer with anyone during the examination.
  • You must not make copies of any of the test questions (either written or screenshot).
  • You must not share the details of this assessment with anyone.
  • You must not approach or ask anyone for support with this assessment.
  • The answers you provide must be your own work and by submitting your answers you are confirming that it is your own work.
  • Remember the University’s rules on plagiarism and academic malpractice (see:
  • If you are undertaking a professionally regulated degree programme, you’ll also be bound by their code of conduct.

During the examination

Manage your time

  • Read through the paper and apportion time to each section/question.
  • Your programme will provide guidance about how much time you are expected to spend on the exam and each section. The expectation is that you should spend no more than three times as long as the examination length (e.g. you are expected to spend no more than three hours completing an open book version of a one hour exam).
  • Answer the questions that you are familiar with first, and then complete those questions that you need to refer to your reference materials.
  • Be concise, accurate and thorough.
  • Spend any extra time at the end reviewing and proofreading your answers
  • Make sure to submit your work before the allotted time is up – don’t leave it to the very last minute in case any problems arise.
  • Students who have a DASS support plan which includes exam arrangements such as extra time, should check with their School Disability Coordinator whether or not these arrangements apply to their open book assessments.

Make sure you

  • For timed examinations, make sure you only click ‘start’ when you are ready to commence the exam as the clock will start ticking when you do.
  • Fill in your student ID number and any other details required by your programme.
  • Read through the whole paper before you start to familiarise yourself with the number and types of questions.
  • Follow the naming protocol for saving and submitting your work (these details will be included in the examination guidance).
  • Include a bibliography/reference list if required. This will not count towards the word limit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Contact a member of staff, the examination information will have the details of who to contact – this may be IT Services, the eLearning team or a member of staff from the programme.

It’s important to get in touch as soon as you encounter an issue. Take screen shots if relevant, to send to the contact person.

You can not query or challenge a question during the examination.

You can state what you think the issue is at the start of your answer and proceed as best you can.

If you believe your academic performance has been seriously affected in some way then you can submit a mitigating circumstances application via your programme. Details are normally in your programme handbook and/or Blackboard.

Please contact your programme/assessment/student support team as soon as you can for further advice. 

It will not be possible to sit the exam late. You may apply for mitigating circumstances, as above.

Late submission penalties may be applied. Details are normally in your programme handbook and/or Blackboard.

If you believe you have a good reason for submitting late including difficulties related to downloading your exam paper or uploading your response, you may apply for mitigating circumstances, as above.

Please contact your programme/assessment support team as soon as you can for further advice.

If you contact the programme/assessment support team after the examination time is over, and prior to submission, you may incur a late submission penalty. Details are normally in your programme handbook and/or Blackboard.