Previous economic studies of the Open University have concentrated on the cost side; this paper looks at the output of the Open University compared to conventional universities. In 1976 multiple choice questions were included in the two second level economics examination papers (D222 and D282); norming data for these questions had already been generated for thousands of university students from 1970 to 1973 during the course of the Economics Education project. The findings show that OU students score at the same level as first year conventional university students in microeconomics, and score significantly higher than third year CU students in macroeconomics. To check whether the favourable performance of OU students was due to being "test-wise" in multiple choice questions, two essay questions from the 1976 Open University D282 paper were set in a conventional university and a "blind" marking exercise was carried out. The result indicated that OU students performed at least as well as their CU counterparts. Further tests were carried out to check on the effect of students previously having taken OU economics courses and whether OU economics students are representative of all students. © 1982 Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company.