Online open book assessment

Open book assessments test a student’s ability to find and apply information and knowledge rather than recall it from memory.

Delivering open book assessments online allows students to use existing materials to answer essay questions, respond to a scenario or solve a problem within a set timeframe.

Students should have up to 48 hours to complete and submit the Online Time-Limited Assessment. Additional flexibility may be required for disabled students.

Accessibility and inclusivity

The University has developed a set of principles for the assessment of students with disabilities:

Aims of open book online assessments

Designed to test higher-order learning, open-book online assessments should ask students to apply, analyse, synthesise, compare, contrast or evaluate information.

They should test whether they understand the “big picture” of the course and how course concepts work together. They test students’ ability to find and use the information for problem-solving, and to deliver well-structured and well-presented arguments and solutions.

As a result, you should have higher expectations of the quality of answers and the extent of critical and analytical thinking, knowing students have course materials available to draw upon. However, answers may be shorter since students will spend more time retrieving information than they would do in a closed book assessment.

Selecting technologies

The University has several systems for enabling open book assessments. The most appropriate technology to use will depend on the format of the assessment the recommended technologies for the most common assessment formats are:

Open-ended questions

Uses standard characters:

Uses non-standard characters or diagrams:

Closed questions

MCQs Numeric answers word answers:


detailed comparison of the functionality of each system (Excel) is also available.

Administering an online open book assessment

The following guidance has been developed with the Programmes and Assessment Team (Student Education Service). Please direct questions about this guidance to the exams team:

Assessments should be released to students via the module area in Minerva at the planned start time for the assessment.

Students should have up to 48 hours to complete the assessment and submit it via the assessment tool. Additional flexibility may be required for disabled students.

The Online Time-limited assessment template front cover should be used where appropriate, these are in line with the standard exam paper templates and is good practice.

This will provide clarity and consistency for students and ensure that the assessment load for students on interdisciplinary programmes is properly managed.

PSRB exceptions

In exceptional circumstances where there is a specific Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Bodies (PSRB) requirement, it may be appropriate to set a time-limited assessment in which students have a specific period (e.g. 3 hours) to complete their assessment once they start it.

In these cases, students should be allowed to start the assessment at any point during the 48-hour period to accommodate differing time zones and interdisciplinary deadlines. Disability adjustments must be made where appropriate. Schools taking this approach must contact the Faculty Assessment Manager.

Student queries

Schools should ensure that there is a clear process in place to support timely responses to student queries, both on the content of the assessment and the logistics. It should be made clear to students at what times support will be available (including services and systems support). When planning this support, please consider students taking examinations in differing time zones.

Providing instructions for students

If setting an online open assessment, it is important to provide students with clear instructions. Students are likely to be unfamiliar with this form of assessment. For each exam, a rubric should be published which should set clear expectations for how the work will be evaluated, such as:

  • the level of detail required
  • the extent to which students are expected to consult additional resources
  • the level of referencing expected
  • a word limit, or an overall expected time to complete

Exam rubrics should be published within the Assessment area in the Minerva module. An Online Time-limited rubric template is available from your SES team.

Ensuring key texts are accessible

If students to need to access specific texts for assessments, please ensure your reading list is up to date.  Use the Minerva Reading List Tool to update your list. Indicate on your reading list where a text is critical for an assessment.

Please update your lists as soon as possible. There may be limits to the number of students who can access a text at any one time, so it is important to flag texts that you expect students to be used intensively over a short assessment period.  If you have any queries about your reading list, please contact