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Online open exams

Preparing for the exam

Whilst you should revise in the usual way for your exams, you might want to think about preparing some additional notes for online open book exams. Although you can have textbooks and other relevant course material with you during online open book exams, it isn’t always practical to spend time looking through them during the exam. To make the process more efficient, you could create exam notes to consult during the exam with key information that you are likely to need.

You should create your exam notes towards the end of your revision period, when you have a good overview of the major themes and topics likely to occur in your exam. You can create and personalise your exam notes in any way you choose, eg mind-maps, drawings, diagrams or brief text (typed or handwritten). The important thing to remember is that you must be able to find and use the information quickly during the exam, so summaries are ideal.

A summary aims to capture the overall message and significance of something, rather than going into it in a lot of detail. You may choose to include details such as statistics or quotations but use these sparingly. Summaries should use bullet points or keywords rather than full sentences or paragraphs; try to keep them on one side of paper to make them easy to read quickly. If you decide to create handwritten notes, include colour, arrows and visual cues to make essential information stand out.

Some examples of the types of summaries that you could create:

  1. A key theory or idea. This may include references to several authors and their works or research. You could also feature case studies or examples that help to explain or illustrate the theory or idea.
  2. A text (eg book, research paper, journal article, report etc). This type of summary briefly states the main points made in the text, the significance of the text and a small number of the most important details if necessary.
  3. An experiment or process. You may want to draw or use arrows between keywords when making a summary of this type. Note down important aspects such as timings, equipment or methods.
  4. Case studies or examples. Many subject areas use case studies to emphasise a point or to show an idea in action. It is important to include information about why each case study or example is significant, and key details such as the year an event or piece of research took place, the authors, etc.
  5. Legal cases or legislation. As well as including details about cases and legislation, you could also state why these are particularly noteworthy, what happened or changed as a result, and possible future developments in the field.

Notes could be an important part of how you approach your online open book exam. You can use them to ensure that you acknowledge the work of other authors when you are writing. You probably won’t need to give full references in this kind of exam, but you should aim to put in appropriate citations throughout your answers and to give key information such as author names, titles of important publications, and dates. Please get in touch with your school or faculty for more clarity on what level of referencing is expected.