An “open book examination” is something where examinees are allowed to consult their class notes, textbooks, and other approved material while answering questions. This practice is quite common in law examinations but uncommon in other subjects. Those who are used to routine examinations are puzzled by this idea. But it is ideal for teaching programs that primarily aim at developing the skills of critical and creative thinking.
Teaching as Transmitting Information
It is essential to understand the nature of teaching programs in general to appreciate open book examinations.It is perceived in the conventional method, that the teacher’s role is to transfer knowledge from the textbook into the students’ minds. The pupil is expected to absorb this knowledge or information, retain it, and retrieve and present it during the final examination.
Most traditional examinations test how much information the students have been able to store in their minds. Thus, students memorize their textbooks and class notes and transfer it to answer sheets in their examination hall. In this type of test, success depends on the quantity of information memorized and the precision with which it is replicated.
Teaching that triggers Mental Growth
An alternative view is that teaching must not be transferring stuff from textbooks to the students’ minds. Instead, actual schooling is to show the students the technique of learning. That is, teaching should give the students the ability to acquire knowledge and to modify the same on the basis of new experience and to apply it to solve problems as well to make intelligent decisions. Education is not just acquiring a degree, but a lifelong process of mental development.
The teacher thus should not only summarize the information in the textbook. But he/she has to activate learning through questions, exercises, projects, and assignments and also sustain and guide by providing his/her comments and criticisms.
Like a physical education program aims to develop the students’ physical fitness, stamina, and flexibility. The subjects taught in a high school or university should aim to develop the student’s intellectual – fitness, stamina, and flexibility.
Thus, conventional memory testing examinations must give way to exams that test the intellectual skills of the student. It is where open book examinations come into the picture.
Open book examination must not have questions like Who invented the theory of relativity?, Explain the term ‘Standard Deviation? Or Write an article on the main structural characteristics of Old English. Students can easily find the answers in the textbooks or notes, and copy them in their answer sheets.
On the contrary, if an indirect question is asked after giving a sentence from Old English, it will demand an understanding of the structural characteristics of Old English. Students cannot copy blindly from the textbook.
In a closed book examination, the student mugs the information from the textbook without understanding the same and then reproduces it into the answer sheet.
The open book exam attempts to eliminate this process of memorizing. Given the access to textbooks in the examination hall, the question paper will not have questions that need a mere transfer of sentences from the book to the answer paper.
It is not that memory has no value in education. Passive memory involves mechanical mugging, whereas active memory, involves creative and critical thinking. Open book examinations are not suited to testing inactive memory. They are for training students to use their dynamic memory.
Two Types of Open Book Examinations
There are two kinds of open book exams
1. The restricted and
2. The free type.
In the restricted form of open-book exam, the students are allowed to bring into the examination hall one or more books approved by the teacher. In the free type, students are free to bring anything of their choice.
In a free or unrestricted exam, the questions will be drafted in such a way the answers will not be found in any of the textbooks, handouts or class notes. An intelligent student who has had the experience of such examinations once will not bother to bring anything for the next test. In this form of exam, the student has to study and not memorize.
Impact on Learning Strategies
Open book examinations promotes the right mental set in both learning and teaching. The students will stop mugging to reproduce it in tests. Open book examinations will effect a fundamental change in this attitude. It does not mean that students do not need to study for exams. It implies that they should understand concepts, and use them to solve problems.
Thus education becomes a pleasurable activity, not a painful drudgery. And what is learned with pleasure is assimilated more efficiently, and retained better.
Impact on Teaching Strategies
Similarly, by open book examinations method, the teaching strategies will also change.Instead of the teacher instructing all the time and students taking down notes, classes will have discussions, questions, and other active processes. The process of Teaching will no longer be a mere transfer of information from the teacher to the student instead it will be the training of the mind in specific intellectual skills.
Thus, open book examinations can restore the true meaning of the word education for both teachers and students. The term ‘open-book’ as per CBSE does not precisely mean that students will be allowed to carry textbooks inside the examination hall. Instead, the students will be informed in advance (four months before the exam) about the chapters and paragraphs from which analytical questions would be asked.
When the teacher announces an open book test, most students breathe a sigh of relief, because they think they’re getting a break from studying. It is entirely a wrong notion. In fact, open book tests are not simple. Open book tests teach students how to find information when they need them using their brain. Students will have to study a little differently.
Open Book Test Questions
Most often, the questions on an open book test will ask students to explain, evaluate, or compare things from their text.
The answer to such a question will not appear in a single paragraph in their text–or even not on a separate page. The problem requires them to have a complete understanding of the different views that they could only comprehend by reading the entire chapter or book.
During the exam, they will not have time to hunt for the answer. Instead, the answer to the question should be known and, during the test, the student’s can look for information from the book supporting that answer.
Preparing for an Open Book Test
• Read the chapters well ahead and do not expect to
Find quick answers during the test.
• Students must know where to look for the solution. One must observe the Headings and sub-headings, and an outline of the structure of the text must be made in mind.
• Mark all the crucial terms and concepts.
• Keep the Lecture notes in mind for themes. The lectures provide an overview of the concepts that appear on exams which is not always available by reviewing the book alone.
• Own notes should be made ready, and essential formulas or concepts covered in class should be written down.
• Constant and regular attention from a qualified and caring tutor is necessary.