Spotlight on Alternative Assessment Methods: Things to think about for open book and at-home exams

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In this post for the ‘Spotlight on alternative assessment methods’, Jenna Mann, Academic Developer at the Institute for Academic Development, introduces a three-part mini-series featured on the Study Hub blog aimed at giving students practical and effective advice on taking open-book exams at home…

The announcement from the University of Edinburgh cancelling first and second year exams, except if they were part of a professionally accredited course, and moving all other exams online, was unprecedented. Many people, staff and students alike, were (maybe still are) feeling anxious at the prospect of online, open book, at-home (or take home) exams, particularly as most of us have never had to do these sort of exams before. And doing something new can be challenging, especially when there are marks at stake.

Normally students don’t need to worry about where and when the exam will be, that was done centrally for them. They could focus their efforts on revising and revising for exams in a format that was probably familiar to almost everyone: closed book, invigilated exams. Except now, that’s not going to happen… so how do you revise for open book exams? How do you even sit an exam at-home?

Once the University had confirmed how exams would be held this diet, the Study Hub Team set to work updating and adding resources to support students through this unusual experience. Exam Bootcamp (a self-enrol resource on Learn) already has effective approaches and strategies for revising and sitting exams so we highlighted some of these on the Study Hub Exams page. The great news is that effective revision works whatever the type, format, or subject of the exam. However, from our experience, not everyone revises effectively (I know I didn’t back in the day…). And given that the exams would now be open book, and students would be sitting them at ‘home’, we wanted to provide more specific advice.

In a bespoke three part mini-series, the Study Hub Blog considers the pros and cons of open-book exams and offer some practical and effective advice to successfully complete them at home:

Open book/ at-home exams are no easier or harder than normal exams. They’re just different… but with the bonus of being able to have your notes at hand and do them in your pyjamas if you want to.

Further resources

Exam Bootcamp has three sections to exam success. You can work through all the steps at your own pace or dip in and out as you need it. You can also use the strategies for making longer term changes to how you study and learn.

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K.A., Marsh, E.J., Nathan, M.J., and Willingham, D.T. “What Works, What Doesn’t.” Scientific American Mind 24, no. 4 (2013): 46. Available via DiscoverEd.

Study Hub Blog

Study Hub Blog and Learning Resources are produced by academic advisers, study development advisers and special contributors, representing a wide range of disciplines, interests, experience and expertise. The aim is to develop, enhance and promote effective studying and learning through practical study skills tips, in-depth articles on the challenges of student life and how to overcome them, insights from University of Edinburgh staff and students, as well as highlighting events and opportunities for personal and academic development offered by a range of University-wide services.

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