Open book exams can take a variety of formats, for example, timed conditions with access to notes, with a summary of  notes, with any resources, or pre-seen questions. This format of exam can also simulate conditions that students will face in their future professional lives, with the need to use selected resources and apply knowledge to solve a problem, discuss a topic, or test a hypothesis.

Top tips for writing effective questions

The formation of questions for open book exams is crucial in setting the appropriate level of challenge and in promoting academic integrity (e.g. limiting opportunities for students to cheat or collude). Use our top tips for writing effective questions:

Example questions

Adapted from: A Guide for Academics – Open book exams 

Applying  What examples can you find to…? 

How would you solve X? 

How would you use…? 

What would happen if…? 

What effect would that have? 

Analysing   What are the parts/features of..? 

Compare and contrast A and B? 

What is the relationship between A and B? 

Why is X different to Y? 

Creating  How would you design a …? 

What changes would you make…? 

What alternatives are there to…? 

How would you evaluate…? 

Evaluating  What does this data show? 

Is anything missing? How could you provide this? 

What methods would be effective?  

Which method is best? 

Reasoning   What would be an example of this? 

What other information do we need? 

Can you explain your reasoning? 

Is there reason to doubt this data/evidence? 

Implications and consequence questions 


What effect would that have?  

What is an alternative? 

What are you implying by that?  

If that happened, what else could happen as a result? Why? 

Viewpoint questions  How would other groups of people respond to this question? Why?  

How could you answer the objection that ______would make?  

What might someone who believed _____ think?  

What is an alternative?  

How are ____ and ____’s ideas alike? Different?

Updated on: 01 October 2022