Advice for Approaching Open Book/Open Note/Take Home Exams

*All tips are dependent on the features of your exam and course materials. Confirm what material is allowed prior to following these recommendations:

Print Resources

  • It is helpful to strategically print out notes, lecture slides, formula sheets, and any other course material or study tools that may be needed for the exam.
  • Many students like to have physical copies of everything so they do not need to depend on clicking through tabs to find their materials.
  • Even printing things such as practice exams and solutions may be helpful to reference during the exam.
  • Strategize about how you can organize these materials for most efficient access.

Spread Out

  • It is helpful to use all of the space available to you to lay out printed material. This makes it easy to locate material during the exam.
  • You can use your dining room table, desk, bed and the floor to lay things out, and any other surface that is accessible.
  • Putting things within arm’s reach of your desk is best because then you will not need to waste time getting out of your chair. If this is not possible, keep in mind that closer is better and try to keep everything as accessible as possible — kind of like an airplane cockpit.
  • Strategize about how you might use file folders/paper clipped materials in stacks or in a box, if space is limited.

Sticky Notes

  • Sticky notes are great for labeling books. Flagging pages in textbooks and notebooks will help you stay organized and find pages quickly.
  • Instead of or in addition to file folders, it is helpful to tag and label all note sheets and other materials needed for the exam.
    • On these sticky notes, you can write topics, concepts, lecture names/numbers, or anything that helps you recognize the material.
  • Is it worth making a table of contents for these materials?

Textbook “Cheat” Sheets

  • Given how large textbooks are, it is useful to have a sheet that has relevant page numbers and topics on it (this can be in place or in addition to sticky notes).
  • Think of this like a custom “Table of Contents” that only contains what you need.


  • Once you have all of your materials laid out and labeled, it may be very helpful to get to know your layout. If possible, take a practice exam, with everything laid out already so you get a sense of where everything is located prior to the actual exam. If there is no practice exam, you can look through the syllabus and try to find relevant information on certain topics among your materials.


  • Adapt, select from, or simplify this advice to suit your situation.



Contributed by Eli Kalfaian, Undergraduate Class of 2022

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