Completing timed assessments
Open-book assessments, also known as open-book exams, allow you to use resources like notes or textbooks when completing them. They may be conducted in a specific venue, or completed at home and submitted online:
- Short timed assessments (1 - 2 hours) are usually held at a university exam venue or completed remotely, with varying degrees of access to resources and references.
- Longer timed take-home assessments (6 hours or more) are completed either on a Monash University platform, or as an assignment submission.
Unlike ‘closed-book' assessments where you cannot bring anything to the task except your pens, pencils and calculators, open-book assessments allow you to have access to your notes, textbooks, references and/or other resources (including access to the internet) when you undertake the assessment. Always check what the allowed resources are before you begin to prepare.
Whether you are completing open book assessments at a university venue or at home, you will need to complete the given task(s) without any help from others, and to do it within the specified period of time. The allowed time can vary significantly from a couple of hours to a couple of days (or longer), so make sure you understand the specific requirements.
Open book assessments challenge you in higher-order thinking to apply, synthesise and think creatively about the content of the unit. They provide opportunities for you to demonstrate your learning in open and creative ways, which is often what is asked of you in the workplace as well.
Open-book assessments are testing your ability to find relevant information quickly, and they often require you to interpret, synthesise and apply that information to solve new problems. During the assessment, there will not be enough time to learn something new - such as how a formula works, or the relationship between two concepts - so study these things beforehand.
For closed-book assessments, you are only allowed to bring your writing materials, approved equipment, such as a calculator, and your mind, sharpened through preparation. Below you will find strategies to help you just before and during your assessment.
Before the day of the assessment
Make sure everything you need is ready to go when you get up in the morning. Use a checklist to ensure you have packed:
- your student ID
- pens, pencils, erasers, and other stationery (if needed)
- a calculator (if required)
- bottle of water
- anything else you think you'll need!
Get a good night's sleep:
- You won't retain much information if you spend all night cramming.
- Get a full night's sleep so you have a fresh mind the next day.
Eat a healthy breakfast or lunch:
- The mind gets sluggish if the stomach is empty – or too full!
- Take the time to have a well-balanced meal before your exam.
- Set two alarms if you are a heavy sleeper. You really don't want to sleep through your exam!
- Allow plenty of time to get to your exam. Factor in an extra hour in case of bad traffic or late public transport.
- Remember, there is no excuse for being late.
- If you arrive early, you can look over your notes and mentally prepare for your exam.
- If undertaking your exam at home, the only difference is that the exam venue is your room. All the other tips above still apply.
During the assessment
- Read the instructions carefully, so you know exactly what is required in each section of the exam.
- Check the marks allocated to different questions and work out how much time you should spend on each and how to prioritise questions worth more.
- You might prefer to start with easier questions, to build your confidence and get some quick marks. Don't panic! Take a moment to think through your answers, and don't rush through the paper too quickly. If you encounter questions you can't answer, come back to them at the end, as you may have a new or better perspective.
Do not ‘hope for the best.’ You need a plan if you want a well-constructed response to the question.
- Jot down your main argument and outline a logical paragraph structure, noting the main point and key evidence for each paragraph.
- Five minutes of planning is reasonable for a 500-600 word essay, which should take about 30-35 minutes to write.
- Make sure you understand what the examiners are asking you to do and answer every part of each question.
- Demonstrate your understanding of the material in your answers, not just the textbook version.
- Stick to your plan and use a clock in the room to keep track of the time.
- If you run out of time, write your answer in dot points so the markers can see your reasoning.
- If you finish early, check over your exam responses. You may notice errors, or find questions you have misunderstood.
- Double check that you have followed the instructions and addressed all parts of each question.
- Read over any essay responses to check their clarity and pick up on any mistakes – you can fix these with some editing, and it may make a more positive impression on the person marking your work.