Student Guide for Open Book Exams

Some or all of your exams may be open-book exams, conducted online. This will form part of the assessment for the module along with other forms of assessment like assignment and/or skills demonstrations.

What is an open-book exam?

An open-book exam is an assessment method that allows students to use notes and textbooks to aid the answering of questions during the exam.

Why use an open-book exam?

This type of assessment allows the examiner to assess more accurately the student’s ability to understand and critically apply knowledge. It also allows for examination online, giving the student more time and space to complete the assessment.

Answering the open-book exam

  • You must sign and date the declaration form (found on module Moodle page) and upload this with your final exam to Moodle before the end of the exam.

  • You should follow carefully all instructions given by the tutor.

  • You should aim to answer as much of the paper from your own knowledge and learning as possible.

  • You should refer to notes and textbooks for help only when necessary and use this material to inform your own work. You will show in your answer that you can apply that material to the question and your vocational area of study. You may do this by applying the information to a case study, giving examples, evaluating information or interpreting it to make is relevant to the question.

  • You should avoid copying and pasting information directly into the exam – remember it is still should be predominately your own work.

  • Always reference any sources used during the exam. The exam is subject to the plagiarism policy and procedures.

  • Do not be lulled into a false sense of security that an open-book exam may be ‘easy’. You should revise for an open-book exam just as much as you would for a supervised exam.

Student Rules for Examinations – On Campus

Before the Exam

  • All students must attend at the exam centre at-least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time.

  • All students must have their student card with them for identification purposes for every exam. Students will not be permitted to enter the exam without their student card or another form of photo identification.

  • Please ensure you have taken care of any toilet needs before the exam. Toilet breaks will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances and if there is a person available to accompany the student.

  • The exam centre will be locked until the supervisor arrives, at which time you will be assigned a seat by the supervisor.

During the Exam

  • Under NO circumstances are phones allowed on your person, whether powered ON and on SILENT or OFF entirely. If a phone is found to be on your person during the exam and/or during a toilet break, this will result in IMMEDIATE EXPULSION FROM THE EXAM CENTRE and will result in a “zero grade” for that exam. If you cannot safely store your phone away before the exam commences, the examination supervisor will retain your phone until you leave the exam centre. Apple Watches or similar are not permitted in the exam either.

  • It is within the right of the exam coordinator, exam supervisor and exam substitute to request the pockets of students to be emptied during an exam and before being escorted to the toilet. Full student compliance is requested as refusal could lead to an investigation of suspected cheating by exam officials.

  • The college will adopt a clean desk policy during the exams – you are only permitted to bring with you writing materials and materials needed for the exam (as directed by the tutor.) Sharing of equipment is not allowed.

  • You are not allowed to bring the following items to your exam desk: Pencil case, phone, calculator cover or any other item not listed above.

  • All bags are to be placed at the front / back of the room or where directed by the supervisor. (The college is not responsible for belongings that go missing during exam times.)

  • If your phone is in your bag, it must be switched off.

  • Students must adhere to any instructions given by the supervisor.

  • The supervisor may request a student to move seats during exams. 100% cooperation regarding this matter is required by all students.

  • No communication with another student is allowed at any time while the examination is taking place.

  • Do not turn your exam paper over until instructed to do so by the Exam Supervisor.

  • Do not write anything on the exam paper or stationery until the exam begins.

  • Silence must be observed during the examination. Failure to maintain silence may result in expulsion from the exam centre. There must be zero communication with other students. If a student needs assistance they can raise their hand to get the supervisors attention.

  • Late students will not be permitted to enter the exam.

  • Students will be removed from the exam centre and will receive a zero grade in the exam, without an opportunity to repeat under the following circumstances:

  1. If there is a suspicion of cheating by the exam supervisor (Suspicion of cheating includes attempts to communicate with another student, materials on your desk or on your person that are not permitted in the exam centre, glancing at another student’s work etc.) Students who have been found to be cheating in an exam will sit all future exams in a separate centre.

  2. If a mobile phone is found on the student’s desk or on their person during an exam and/or toilet break.

  • Students may leave the examination after 30 minutes has passed if they are finished their exam. Once students leave the exam hall they will not be allowed to return.

  • Students may not leave the examination in the last 10 minutes of the exam time.

  • All students must sign the “sign out” sheet when leaving the exam and mark the time they leave.

  • When students leave the exam early they must not congregate near the exam hall. Noise made will distract students still doing their exams.

  • All exams will finish at the time scheduled. No extra time will be added.

  • The Exam Supervisor’s role is to implement the above rules.

  • Exam Supervisors cannot help students with examination questions.

  • In the unlikely event that there is a disruption to the exam students will remain in their seats and remain quiet. Papers will be turned over until the exam re-commences.

Toilet Breaks

  • In the instance of recurrent/frequent visits (over 2 visits) made to the designated toilet facilities over the course of the exam period, students must provide a letter issued by their General Practitioner outlining a definitive medical need to frequent the toilet facilities on such a regular basis. All toilet breaks are recorded by the examination supervisor and examination substitute for future reference.

Exam Study Plan

Step 1

Download and print out the weekly template and fill in the boxes hour by hour.

Step 2

Fill in all the things you have to do for the week (for example, work, outside commitments etc). This way you won’t feel stressed that you should be studying when you are doing these activities because you have planned for them well in advance.

Step 3

Instead of writing down just a module’s name try to be more specific and give yourself a more defined task (for example, “Do exam questions on Theorists” is better than just “Psychology”).

Things to be aware of...

Don't feel stressed if you don’t get everything done

As with most things in life, it’s inevitable that you will not always be able to stick to your plan. It’s a good idea to leave a few slots free later in the week so that you can use that time to catch up on tasks you missed earlier in the week.

Stay focused by practicing past exam questions

It’s very common for you to lose focus and get the feeling that nothing is going in. One of the best ways to stay focused is to do active learning by trying some mock exam questions after you have completed any topic.

Use memory tricks to learn material

  • Use queue cards for notes

  • Learn a list by learning the first letter of each word/phrase (acronyms)

  • Use pictures, colours, underline and numbering to aid recall

  • Repetition, repetition, repetition. Rewrite lists over and over to help memory.

  • Copy, read, cover, write, review (like when you learn spelling)

  • Use pyramids for ascending or descending information

  • Tape yourself and listen back repeatedly. Use Voice Memos on your phone!

  • Draw diagrams

  • Set targets: ‘I’ll learn these 2 pages today.’

  • Use visual images like naming parts of a picture (e.g. car, house etc.) or parts of the hand

  • Reduce your notes to key words

  • Study with a friend

  • Review work learned quickly and often: 10 mins.; 1 day; 1 week; 1 month; just before exams

Exam Strategy

  1. Read full paper

  2. Answer best questions first

  3. Note key word in question and stick to that

  4. Answer only what you are asked

  5. Give full details for longer questions

  6. Note how much each question is worth

  7. Attempt everything

  8. Read back over answers

Exam Terminology Explained

Account for

Explain why something happens, clarify, give reasons for


Break down a subject. Look at it from all angles. What’s involved in it? What’s good about it? What’s not so good about it? What would you like to continue as good practice? What would you change and why? Identify the main points and significant features. Examine critically and/or in great detail.


Make a case based on appropriate evidence for / against a point of view.


Identify the value of, weigh up (See also Evaluate)


Determine the solution using Maths.


Arrange into classes or categories.

Comment on

Identify the main issues, providing reactions and evidence (examples, sources, authors) to support your points. Avoid personal opinions lacking supporting evidence.


Show similarities between two (or more) things. Indicate relevance, importance and consequence of these similarities.


Show differences between two (or more) things. Indicate relevance, importance and consequence of these differences. If appropriate, justify why one item/argument may be more convincing or preferred.

Compare and contrast

Show the similarities and differences between two (or more) things.

Critically evaluate

Weigh arguments for and against something, indicating and then assessing the strength of the evidence on both sides. Be clear about your criteria for how you judge which side is preferable/more convincing.


Express your judgment on a topic. Give the good points, the negative points, what would continue to do for good practice and what you would improve and in what way, for example, theories, opinions, models, items.


Say briefly what the word/phrase means. Provide the exact meaning or a word, concept or phrase. Where appropriate you may need to identify other alternative definitions and/or disagreements about the definition.


Explain using examples.


Fully say what the topic is like. Give as much detail as possible. (Imagine you are telling someone who knows nothing about the subject as much information as you can so they can understand it.)


Make a preliminary plan or sketch.


Expand on a statement/idea to include more detail.


Invent or plan based on existing knowledge or information.


For a question which specifies a diagram you should present a drawing, chart, plan, or graphic representation in your answer. Generally you are expected to label the diagram and in some cases add a brief explanation or description.


Discuss the differences between items. Differentiate can also relate to the mathematical term meaning to find the derivative.


This is common in essay style questions. You should be detailed in your answer with a full explanation of the topic. Explain the topic, give the pros and cons of the topic and analyse the topic.


To show a difference between two or more areas / headings.


Look at the topic from all angles. What are the advantages and limitations? Say how valuable this topic is in the subject. What would you recommend as good points to continue and what would you recommend should change and why?

This term is used in Maths to mean: “find a numerical answer”.


Look in detail – this may also involve ‘critical evaluation’ as well.


Make clear exactly what is involved in the topic. Give reasons for any ideas in the topic and analyse it.


Look at a topic in greater detail.


Associate the topic with a specific but separate topic.


A question which asks you to illustrate usually requires you to explain or clarify your answer to the problem by presenting a figure, picture, diagram, or concrete example.


Give the meaning and relevance of date or other material.


Examine in detail.


Give good reasons to back up the opinion or answer you have given.

List (or enumerate)

Give a numbered list of items in concise form – not too much detail. Be clear and logical in your list.


An outline answer is an organised description. You do not have to be very detailed, just give the main points of the topic.


Give details and evidence which shows an argument to be true without using your own opinion.


Provide reasons in favour of a given topic.


Highlight the connections between two or more items.


A review specifies a critical examination. You should analyse and comment briefly in organised sequence upon the major points of the problem.


Just give the main points.


When you are asked to summarise or present a summarisation, you should give in condensed form the main points or facts.


Put the information into a table.


When a question asks you to trace a course of events, you are to give a description of progress, historical sequence, or development from beginning to end.

A Sample Exam Answer