Open Book exams are a good alternative to synchronous exams. There are ways to design an asynchronous, open-book, unproctored exam that minimizes the potential for academic misconduct. See the Academic Integrity section for additional information

Recommended Practices

Content and Format

  • Enforcing a closed-book exam in an unproctored situation is impossible. We recommend using an Academic Integrity statement that students must sign or otherwise acknowledge, thereby setting up a level playing field. If students are told not to use any resources at all, those who normally wouldn’t consider cheating are now aware that some of their peers have an opportunity to unfairly achieve a higher grade. Simply by outlining some resources that are available, and outlawing others that are not, the playing field is leveled and honest students are able to proceed with confidence, while those who were planning to cheat will do what they were going to do anyway.
  • If your exam is open book, state it explicitly and provide students with a list of acceptable resources for use during the exam. For example: in a language course, students could be allowed to use their textbook and a dictionary, which might reduce the likelihood of students googling answers out of desperation. In a STEM course, students might be allowed to use a formula sheet during the exam.
  • Avoid high-stakes final exams – keep the weight below 40% (aim for 25% to 35%) so that students’ final grades are not based primarily on how they perform on one assessment.
  • During the term, show students Bloom’s Taxonomy and give them examples of questions at the recall level as well as at the level you will be testing.
  • Use question formats that students have practiced and received feedback on during the term. In other words, don’t give an exam with essay questions if your weekly quizzes included only multiple-choice questions.
  • For essay-based exams, aim for 1-3 questions where students can demonstrate that they know how to retrieve, apply, and integrate information covered during the course. Specify a reasonable word count so students know that the parameters of the essay exam are not the same as the parameters of a major essay written during the term.
  • For multiple-choice questions, consider drawing a random set of questions from a question pool or bank.
  • In STEM, consider using a pool and algorithmic questions. Also consider using fewer computational questions and more conceptual, high-order thinking questions.
  • Consider using case studies, as long as you use them during the term so students learn to analyze and respond to them.
  • It is possible to set up a quiz in LEARN, and also provide a PDF of the questions so that students can work out the problems on paper, and then input their answers into the quiz. If you do post a PDF of the questions, don't scramble the order of either the exam questions or response options in the LEARN quiz. This makes students use exam time to track down the location of each question.
  • Primarily use higher-order thinking questions, i.e., those that require students to apply, analyze, synthesize, and critique course material, rather than basic recall questions where students can just look up the answer. Here’s an example of how to revise a multiple-choice recall question.

Question where the answer would be easy to look up

Revised as an Application Question which is not easy to just look up the answer

Which of the following is the definition of the term self-concept?

  1. A person’s concept of how others see them.
  2. A person’s beliefs about the self that organize and guide the processing of self-relevant information.
  3. A person’s images of what they dream of or dread about the future.
  4. A person’s answers to the question “Who am I?”

Barbara replies to her therapist, "How do I see myself? Well, I'm socially anxious, insecure, relatively intelligent, and terribly shy." Barbara's response reflects her

  1. looking glass self.
  2. self-concept.
  3. cognitive dissonance.
  4. working memory.

Administration of the exam

  • Open book final exams should have a generous availability window of at least 24 hours so that students can manage possible conflicts with other courses or commitments, whether or not the exam itself is timed.
  • When preparing your students for an open-book, unproctored exam, explain that the focus of the exam is on assessing higher-order thinking skills. Encourage students to study for the exam. Provide clear instructions and clear parameters so that students know what you are expecting; use rubrics whenever possible.
  • Clearly state which weeks of content the final exam covers (e.g., weeks 9-12, the entire course).
  • Review your learning outcomes and ensure that the exam covers any learning outcomes that were not fully covered in the in-term assessments.


Your choice of tool depends on your exam. See the Tools and Technology section for an overview of options.