Consult your books to write exams

Consult your books to write exams

Modern classrooms are now filled with students who belong to the ‘cut-copy-paste generation’ – one that relies on the services of internet search engines instead of libraries, Xerox machines to copy friends’ notes instead of taking them down and other technologically advanced devices that make education much more convenient than their parents would remember. It’s therefore interesting to note that the concept of open-book tests (OBTs) is no longer such a common one. An OBT is a test in which examinees are allowed to consult their class notes, textbooks, and other approved material while answering questions. 

As a concept, it is ideally suited to teaching programmes that aim at developing skills of critical and creative thinking like in law courses. National Law School of India University (NLSIU), for instance, endorses it if the subject teacher so desires. Pranjal Singh, a student, favours the concept. “Law is a multi-disciplinary career. You are not made to learn the laws but the skill of finding out what the law ought to be. It keeps your mind receptive to learning all your life. In keeping with that, I see OBTs as a good way to analyse and understand provided data,” he says. 

“The reading material provided is compiled by the instructor before the course begins and sent to the examination department for approval. Once the academic council approves it, the examination department then distributes it. Most of the time, the material consists of articles and excerpts from reports and books,” adds Pranjal.

At Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology, OBTs are a good test of analytical skills. “Since the tests are subjective and teachers want you to reflect about the content, the two OBTs I’ve written have been good. For the first one, we studied Aamir Khan’s perspective on education and the reference material was his films and notes. In political science, we had to answer what the best form of governance was, for which they wanted us to know the options at hand,” recalls Anchana Kota, a student. “It’s not like school where they’re testing you for the right equations. OBTs test whether the students have absorbed information in the right way, which is the end-goal. It also helps in the future because one can analyse any reading material, regardless of whether they’ve previously accessed it or not,” she adds.

However, it is unheard of in most other subjects. “I feel that OBTs can help students think out-of-the-box since they cannot simply copy from the textbook. It’s also better than mugging and reproducing matter without understanding it. But the conventional method of closed book examinations works for a reason. As the answers in OBTs are subject to interpretation, the evaluation is never clearly right or wrong, which can hamper the student’s grades and career,” voices Shilpa, an engineering student. 

However, she adds that for creative fields like literature or fine arts, reference books can help produce better answers while writing exams.

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