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Explained | CBSE proposes pilot run for open book exams: All you need to know

The CBSE is considering a trial run of open-book tests for classes 9 to 12 in select schools for subjects like English, Mathematics, and Science to assess how students manage their time and gather feedback from stakeholders
Last Updated 22 February 2024, 10:58 IST

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has directed a trial run on Open Book Examinations (OBEs) for Classes 9 to 12, aiming to assess how students manage their time and gather feedback from stakeholders, the Indian Express reported.

The trial run will be held for classes 9 to 12 in select schools for subjects like English, Mathematics, and Science.

Here's everything you need to know about CBSE's proposed Open Book Examinations.

What are open-book exams?

In an open-book exam, students are allowed to use their notes and textbooks during the exam. OBEs are structured in a way that students have to apply concepts, instead of just copying information from the available material.

Are open-book exams easier?

Open-book exams permit students to use their notes and textbooks during the test, but they aren't necessarily easier. In fact, they often pose more challenges than closed-book exams. Unlike closed-book tests that rely on memory, open-book assessments evaluate a student's understanding, analytical skills, and application of concepts. It's not just about copying information from a textbook onto the answer sheet.

When is the pilot run scheduled?

The proposed pilot for these exams is scheduled for November-December this year. The Board aims to assess higher-order thinking skills, including application, analysis, critical and creative thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Based on the outcomes of this pilot, the Board will decide whether to implement this form of assessment for Classes 9 to 12 across all its schools.

IE reported that during the curriculum committee meeting, some members proposed having teachers take the open book exams to understand the concept first and accordingly develop OBE materials of similar quality to those of Advanced Placement examination (an entrance exam for colleges in the US).

Is this a new concept for India?

Contrary to popular beliefs, CBSE had initially introduced Open Text Based Assessment (OBTA) in 2014, in an effort to relieve the students from the burden of mugging up, and acquiring skills of information processing.

OBTA was introduced for class 9 for Hindi, English, Mathematics, Science and Social Science, and final examination of Class 11 in subjects such as Economics, Biology and Geography.

It was later discontinued in 2017-18 owing to its lack of critical assessment.

Additionally, DU introduced open-book tests in August 2020 amid the Covid pandemic, despite opposition, as it disrupted the academic calendar.

Some students raised concerns to the Delhi High Court, arguing that OBE could discriminate against those without internet access and proper infrastructure, particularly underprivileged and visually challenged students. The court eventually allowed DU to conduct OBE for final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Regular students were allotted three hours for the exam, with an additional hour for scanning and uploading answer sheets, while PwD students were given six hours for the examination.

"The first OBE assessment was held in August 2020 and the last one was held in March 2022. DU resumed physical mode completely in January 2022 but the last round of OBE was given as an option for students who joined the varsity in November 2021. We resumed the normal mode of examination thereafter", Ajay Arora, OSD Examination at DU told IE.

Why is it being introduced now?

Introduction of OBEs is in alignment with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 which aims for the transition from rote memorisation to competency-based learning.

What does research say about OBEs?

According to a study conducted among medical students of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Bhubaneswar in 2021, OBEs have a benefit of being less stressful.

A 2020 pilot study, published in Cambridge University Press, performed to check the exams' accessibility and feasibility, concluded that among 98 students, 21.4% failed and 78.6% passed.

"Only 55 students volunteered to give feedback; most agreed that the best advantage of this assessment was that it was stress-free," the study report said.

A study conducted by Nirma University’s Nitin Pillai and Mamta Pillai, published in June 2022, stressed on the need to train students on how to write an OBE and developing the necessary skills of analysing concepts to get the benefits of OBE.

Another study conducted in 2021 by Dhananjay Ashri and Bibhu P Sahoo on the use of OBEs for the students of DU stated that even though mean marks scored by the students in an OBE is higher than in a closed book exam, the university did not focus on developing the skills required for a student to crack an OBE.

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(Published 22 February 2024, 10:58 IST)

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