Open-book and at-home exams (Part 3)

Demystifying Exams

Sitting an open-book, at-home exam is different to what most students are used to. In this three-part mini-series, we will offer some practical advice to successfully complete them.

You might think: “I’ve got 24 hours to submit my exam answers, which means I can work on it for a whole day!”

If you have ever run out of time in an exam, getting a whole day to do it seems great. You have time to download the questions, do some reading, write notes, plan an answer and then write for as long as you want to… Or do you? What if you have exams close together, or overlapping? Realistically, you will need to fit in sleeping, eating, hydrating, exercising, etc. And does your exam even last 24 hours? Is it time restricted?

Some things to consider on the day of the exam:

  • Have only those notes/materials you really need nearby to refer to if you get stuck. Have these prepared in advance. Trying to find one thing amongst all your course materials in a short timeframe might make you panic.
  • When do you work best? If you have 24 hours, you have room to schedule your exam in a way that fits your preference (e.g. morning, afternoon, evening). You could try scheduling your exam over a few periods, giving yourself a break and some thinking time between them. This will help you make sure your concentration is at its best when writing answers. Also consider when your WiFi will be at its best if you it to complete the exam.
  • How long should you actually sit the exam for? For shorter exams (e.g. 3 hours), you should be using the usual time to complete the exam and allowing enought time to scan and upload your answers successfully. For exams lasting 24 hours, you should not be spending the whole time on them. Consult your School for advice on the time you should be spending on them and use the word-count as a rough guide. How long would the exam normally last?
  • Sit the exam in exam-like conditions. Put your phone away, set a timer to keep you on time, and have some water nearby.
  • Where will you sit the exam? Is there a room where you can go away from others in your house for peace? Make sure everybody knows when and where you are sitting it, so you will not be disturbed. Just in case, put a note on the room door, saying


Open-book, at-home exams are not easier than formal exams. You still need to know and understand your course material, to apply, argue, compare and critique in the context of the questions. You should be revising material before the exam, not seeing it for the first time during it. At-home exams should be approached just like a formal exam but with the bonus of being in your own surroundings and with your notes to hand.


Further Links

Study Hub Learning Resources has advice on Exams and Time management.

There is also advice on preparing for, revising and sitting exams in Exam Bootcamp (a self-enrol course in LEARN).

Open-book and at-home exams (Part 2) – revising.

Open-book and at-home exams (Part 1) – preparing.