Tips for constructing questions for Take Home exams or (open book) written exams online

These tips are offered to give lecturers some guidance. They will be supplemented in the near future.

  1. The questions should not be on a level of facts and definitions. They should be formulated in such a way that students can demonstrate that they have read, digested, and understood the material. That they have insight and are able to apply what they have learned.
  2. Don’t make the questions so generic that students will be able to get the answers off the web for any part of it. Google some words of your question and see what will come up as a check beforehand.
  3. Let students formulate their own examples to explain something, come up with their own arguments, etc. 
  4. Ask students to apply a concept/theory from the syllabus to an unfamiliar situation not discussed in class.
  5. Ask students to explain something based on a case or example and use different kinds of examples cases.
  6. Provide a casus. Ask to choose a statement or solution and let students explain why this is the right or best choice. Stress that all or the most points will be provided for the explanation or argumentation. 
  7. Ask for relations or let them contrast or compare something. How do the ideas in chapter XXX about YYYY, relate to what was discussed in lecture AAAA about …. [or in article BBBB]?

Transparency and asking for honesty

  • In many cases the test will change for example from a closed book to an open book exam. Prepare the students for this new test by giving them a sample test or at least sample questions.
  • Be clear about the rules for the take-home exam (is collaboration allowed or not; what sources may be used) and explain the reason for these rules. Explain that answers must reflect independent effort.
  • Remind them of the code of conduct and/or have the students sign a sign an honesty pledge prior to taking the exam.

Cheating possibilities to be aware of

  • A students pays someone else to do the job.
  • A student asks someone else to help.
  • Collaboration – working together.
  • Looking for the answers on the internet. Asking for help in online forums.

To prevent cheating 

  • Cheating can be discouraged by letting students know a whole or partial additional exam could be reuired. This could be a random sampling of the student body, or students whose test don’t meet a certain threshold. 
  • Students will feel more inclined to cheat if they feel “stuck”. Provide possibilities to ask a question.
  • Provide the students instructions how to hand in their test a few days before the exam and give them the opportunity to test this (if it takes some complex activities). In case you ask students to take a picture of their results, and they have to upload this picture in a certain format (pdf) in a short time directly after taking the exam, you could create a sample test and ask the students to hand in picture. Just to get them used to what to do.

Resources used:;wap2