Chances are if you’re anything like I was as a college student, when you hear your professor say “The exam will be ‘open-book,’ ” you’re secretly doing a little happy dance on the inside. For a student, this can sound like great news because it means (in theory) that you should be able to find the right answer to all the questions because you basically have the answers right in front of you and therefore, you don’t really need to study…. right? DON’T FALL INTO THIS TRAP! Professors often make tests open book because they know there is a lot of information to cover, that their tests are difficult, and that there is value in knowing where to find the right answer. If you show up on test day thinking that you will just be able to flip to the right answer, you could be very, very wrong. For example say you have 90 minutes to take a 100-question, multiple choice open-book test. If you didn’t study, all of the multiple choice answers may sound like plausible correct answers, and you could find yourself spending way too much time on a question. There are some tips you can use to help yourself be prepared and do well on open-book tests:

  • Know what chapters of the textbook the test is covering so that you aren’t looking through chapters during the test that the right answers definitely won’t be in

  • Use sticky tabs in your textbook and use them to mark and label:

    The glossary: this way you can easily flip to terms and their definitions

    The name index: this way you can easily flip to the pages asking about specific people (researchers, important people in the field, authors of important books or articles)

    The subject index: so you can easily flip to important terms and concepts that aren’t necessarily vocabulary words

  • Sticky tabs to label really important, broad sections and concepts

  • Skim-read with a highlighter and find the vocabulary words within the chapters days before the test so you have some idea of where topics are located