Open-book exam system on the anvil

New chapter: HRD ministry considering expert panel proposal


“A long-term move towards open-book exams can be envisaged,” said an expert-committee report on examination reforms, now under  consideration of the Human Resource Development Ministry. “The reform has been recommended for reducing exam-related anxiety and its often morbid consequences,” the report said.

The report asks authorities to provide the periodic table and bond angle values to candidates writing chemistry examination. Likewise, students writing mathematics and physics examinations should be given some trigonometric identities and other formulae, which otherwise have to be learnt by rote, the report says.

“The focus of questions should, likewise, move to genuine applications from mere plug-in-type problems,” the report said. In the history paper, for instance, questions which test whether students know the venues of each of the Indian National Congress sessions be replaced with questions on the significance of key Congress sessions.

“Questions such as ‘mention eight causes of the events of 1857’ (four marks) set panic bells ringing with the student getting worried that he/she cannot remember more than five and then bungling even these in  anxiety. Such questions should be replaced with questions eliciting open-ended data response and analysis,” the report said.

For instance, in this case, three key paragraphs from the 1857 Azamgarh Proclamation could be provided and students be asked an open-ended question: “Based on this extract and your own knowledge, discuss whether the events of 1857 can best be described as the Great Revolt, the First War of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny?”  

Stress factor

“This would not only be more humane and less stress-inducing, it would also call upon the students to organise their thoughts into an argument and demonstrate higher-order interpretive skills,” the reports said. Maintaining that the excessive length of question papers causes a lot of stress, the National Council for Educational Research and Training-appointed experts observed that shorter exams leave time for deliberation and periodic rest would help.

The exam length (usually three hours per subject) should be reduced to two-and-half hours for higher level exams and two hours for standard level ones, remembering that the paper setter’s quest to cover all sections of the syllabus is “an illusory one in any case.”

The number of answers expected and the quantity of response in the given time should be reduced. Examinations, should be set so that 95 per cent of students should be able to complete it and have time left for a quick review.

*The focus of questions should move to genuine applications from mere plug-in-type problems

*The exam length (usually three hours per subject) should be reduced to two-and-half hours for higher level exams and two hours for standard level ones

*Candidates writing chemistry paper to be given the periodic table and bond angle values

*Students writing mathematics and physics should be given some trigonometric identities and other formulae

*The numbers of answers expected and the quantity of response in the given time should be reduced

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