Types of Assessments


Assessments can be delivered in a variety of ways. Don't assume one is easier than another, although the way you study might differ depending on the type of assessment. You need to prepare for all assessments, no matter what the delivery method is.

Conventional Exams

Typical exams are delivered in a proctored classroom setting with a specific period of time to complete a variety of questions and question types. This type of exam is usually "paper and pencil" but could also be delivered via an electronic device like a computer.

Open Book Exams (completed in class)

Open book exams may consist of many different question types. Because you are given the opportunity to consult print resources, expectations may be higher for answers to contain more detail and be more complex in their analysis of the question or statement. It is very important to pay special attention to directives in open book exams. If the exam is an open book math assessment, you will be expected to show detailed work as to how they reached their solution to the problem. If the exam is primarily or completely essay, you may be expected to use quotes, cite sources, and provide more details.

In an open book exam you will likely be evaluated more on understanding than on recall and memorization. Open book exams test your ability to find and use information for problem solving and to deliver well-structured and well-presented arguments and solutions. You may be expected to apply material to new situations, analyze elements and relationships, and demonstrate that you have synthesized the material through the structure of your answer and how well you have provided supporting evidence for your answer.

Terms & Directives

Directives ask you to answer or present information in a particular way. For a list of words and explanations, see Study Guides and Strategies, essay terms.

Tips for Preparing for Open Book Exams

- Make your reference materials as user-friendly as possible so that you don't lose time locating what you need.

- Familiarize yourself with the format, layout and structure of your textbooks and source materials.

- Organize textbooks and source materials with your class notes for speedy retrieval and index ideas and concepts with pointers and/or page numbers in the source material.

- Develop a system of tabs or sticky notes, color coding, concept maps, etc. to mark important summaries, headings, and sections.

- Write short, manageable summaries of content for each grouping.

- List data and formulas separately for easy access.

Tips for Taking Open Book Exams

- to illustrate a point or act as a discussion point.

- to draw on the authority of the source.

- when you can not say it better in your own words.

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Open Book Exams (Take-Home)

When you are given a take-home exam, you will have more time to complete it compared to an in-class exam, but you still need to study and prepare by organizing your materials and resources. Take-home exams are often graded more stringently than in-class exams because you do have more time to complete your work. You will need to pay special attention to details and organization, as well as to directives.

If your instructor doesn't specifically address it, ask if you are allowed to work on the exam with others or if you are to work alone. Working together on an exam that you are expected to complete individually is cheating.


To prepare for and complete an open book take-home exam, you will need to follow the same tips as for the in-class open book exam. Since you will have more time to complete the take-home exam than you would for an in-class open book exam, here are some additional tips for completing the exam:

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Interviews and Oral Examinations

A formal assessment conducted through an interview or oral exam consists of a series of questions, which may include having you perform tasks or solve problems. You demonstrate your understanding of the concepts by answering questions and performing the requested tasks.

Oral exams give you an opportunity to practice your speaking and communication, both of which are needed during job interviews. Oral exams can include both prepared presentations where you are assigned a topic in advance, and more informal question-and-answer sessions where you need to know the content but don't need to prepare a formal presentation.

Preparation Tips

During the Exam


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Math Exams

Math exams usually require students to complete math problems. Expect to be asked to show your work. Question types can vary from matching, to multiple-choice, to completion.

Preparation Tips

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Research Papers

Research papers are often assessed. Here's a good definition [by the Department of English at Purdue University] of a research paper:

"A research paper is a piece of academic writing that requires a more abstract, critical, and thoughtful level of inquiry than you might be used to…….Writing a research paper involves (1) first familiarizing yourself with the works of "experts"--for example, on the page, in cyberspace, or in the flesh through personal interviews--to build upon what you know about a subject and then (2) comparing their thoughts on the topic with your own." (Research Papers: What is a Research Paper? (n.d.). Retrieved September 3, 2012, from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/workshops/hypertext/ResearchW/what.html)

In a research paper you combine what you know with what you learn, integrating your personal thoughts and insights.

There are several different types of research papers:

Perparation Tips

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Class Projects

Class projects can take a variety of forms. They are also a way to assess what you have learned. Usually, instead of writing answers to questions, you have to produce something that will be graded based on specific criteria. The grading criteria are often organized in a rubric. You can visit the University of Wisconsin's Rubric Website for exemplar rubrics.

Working in Class Projects Tips

Because the term "class project" is so broad, it's hard to give specific tips, but here are a few that apply to projects in general:


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