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Types of Exam

Close-book Exams: as the title suggests.

Multiple-choice exams

The most important advice for multiple choice exams is to read the exam paper carefully! Work through the questions at a fairly steady pace. Don’t hurry yourself, but above all do not get stuck. If you are not sure about an answer, have a reasonable guess, put a mark beside that question, and keep going. Don’t spend time agonising over a question you may get wrong anyway! If you have time at the end of the exam, you can go back through the marked questions and double-check your answers.

Multiple choice exams are usually carefully designed to minimise the ‘luck’ factor. So keep a cool head and work steadily through the paper.

Taking notes into the exam

Some lecturers invite you to take and one or two A4 pages of notes into the exam. This is a great strategy to make you revise!

Don’t write out full essay answers on these sheets, because you do not know exactly how the questions will be phrased and your model answers may not answer the question effectively. Instead, use your sheet to summarise main points, and perhaps include some useful quotations (especially for literature exams). Use a clear layout with visual cues such as lay-out, underlining, concept maps and so on. Tiny writing may not be wise, because you will need to refer to your sheet quickly and efficiently.

Take-home exams

You need to prepare for take-home exams too. Take-home exams are often marked more strictly than other exams, taking into consideration presentation (spelling, referencing and so on) as well as content. In particular, you will have to demonstrate analytical thinking. You need to be familiar with the course content and to have done plenty of background reading so that you can answer a take-home exam adequately in the limited time available.

Open-book exams

You need a very particular revision strategy for open-book exams. You need to be absolutely familiar with your textbook(s). It may be a good idea to make concept maps of the relevant chapters, or at least summaries that you can use as a quick prompt. You need to be familiar with using the index and contents so that you can quickly identify the correct place in the book to help you with the exam.

You will have to be particularly careful about plagiarism, too. Remember to use quotation marks for any sentences that you copy from the book. You will need plenty of practice in paraphrasing from the book beforehand.

It is worthwhile practising on previous exam papers before the exam, as timing can be difficult in open-book exams. It can be tempting to spend too much time desperately searching through the book: you need to know exactly where to find what you need.

Note: After the exam

It can be helpful to have a look at your exam paper after it has been marked. What could you do better next time round? You might like to discuss that question with your lecturer or with a study skills adviser. However, university regulations mean that you cannot take your exam paper away or photocopy it.


University of Canberra. 2006. Exams. Retrieved July 25th, 2009 from http://www.canberra.edu.au/studyskills/learning/exams

Australian National University. 2009. Multiple choice questions in exams. Retrieved July 25th, 2009 from https://academicskills.anu.edu.au/resources/handouts/multiple-choice-questions-exams

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