Student Preferences and Performance: A Comparison of Open-Book, Closed Book, and Cheat Sheet Exam Types

Noelle Mathew


What type of examination do students prefer the most? Is the preference for exam type related to performance on the exam? The differences in student preferences and performance between open-book, cheat sheet and closed-book exams were examined in two different types of psychology courses. A total of 297 students enrolled in 8 sections of Introductory Psychology and 99 students enrolled in 4 sections of Statistics participated in this study. Students were given either open-book, cheat sheet or closed-book exams and completed a preference questionnaire. The questionnaire asked participants which type of test (open-book, cheat sheet or closed-book) they predict they would do best on, which type of test they would spend the most time studying for and which type of test they preferred to take, as well as how much time they had spent studying for that test. Students in both types of classes predicted that they would do better on open-book or cheat sheet exams compared to closed-book exams. Scores on closed book exams were lower than on the other two exam types, but scores did not differ between open-book and cheat-sheet exams. Comparisons of the actual exam scores of those who predicted they would do best on open-book exams and those that predicted they would perform best on cheat sheet exams found no difference between the two groups of students on scores on the two types of exams. Students believed they would study most for closed-book exams compared to the other exam types, but there were no differences in reported study time between exam types. Finally, students were asked which of the 3 exam types they would prefer to take. Students in both classes preferred open- book and cheat sheet exams over closed book tests. A comparison of the exam scores of those that preferred open- book exams to those who preferred cheat sheets revealed no difference between the two groups of students on exam scores. These results suggest that although students have preferences for particular types of exams, these preferences are largely unrelated to how students actually do on exams or how much they prepare for exams.


Exams; Anxiety; Test-Types

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