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Center for Innovative Learning: Open Book Assessments

Faculty Experience

Dr. Katie Cardone, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice, offered to share these guidelines on how online, open-book exams are presented to students in the Nephrology course:

I wanted to share some thoughts on open-book assessments as we are all planning how to handle exams. Darren and I have used open book exams in our summer courses and have worked through some of the hiccups over the past 4 course offerings.

  • Lack of student experience: Most of our students have generally not had much experience taking open-book exams. This means we had to provide guidance on how to prepare and take the exam. Here is the guidance I provide students in case it is helpful to you:

    • “This is a reminder that Exam X will open on X day at X time and remain open through X day at X time. This exam is open-book and is 1-hour in duration. Here are some tips as you prepare for the exam:

    • 1. Even though this is an open-book exam, you should study the mater”ial. There are no simple recall questions on the exam, and you will need to be able to apply what you know to the questions. To help you prepare, recall that there is access to a tutor (Dr. Hadgu can be contacted at ********@acphs.edu; schedule appointments on Upswing), practice questions in the DiPiro eBook and on the BB page, access to the discussion board for questions, and the weekly blog post (posted by Monday).

    • 2. Plan ahead of time where and when you will take the exam. Avoid distractions during the test -- you have limited time and will need to concentrate. Have your notes, references, a calculator and scrap paper readily available. 

    • 3. When you open the exam, read all the questions first. Answer the ones you know first. This is a time-saving approach and will help budget your time.

    • 4. Go back and complete the longer or more difficult questions, and if you have time, check your work. Especially for short answer/fill-in/essay questions: Did you adequately answer the question? Does your answer make sense?

    • 5. Keep track of your time -- the exam has a built-in timer. Be sure to submit your exam within the allotted time.”

  • Time-limiting exams: If possible, please consider having a time-limit on taking the exam (1-2 hours) in order to avoid students pulling all-nighters to make sure their answers are perfect. We have heard of this in the past and if all courses switch to application or essay questions with open time-limits, it will be very stressful for our students.

  • Number of questions: Consider adjusting the number of questions. As an FYI, for nephrology, we asked students to complete 15 application-based questions (some multiple choice and others fill-in/short answer) in a 1 hour period. Some students had difficulty finishing.

  • Preventing backward navigation: If you randomize questions AND prevent backward navigation, this will disadvantage students who get more difficult questions at the beginning. If you are doing an open-book exam, please consider allowing backward navigation. This allows students to answer the questions they know first and helps them budget time.

Advice from Canvas on Setting Up Quizzes

Other Resources