Open book exams - A better option at board level

Open book exams - A better option at board level.


The education system in our country at board levels is always under the scanner, sometimes for the grading system and sometimes for being biased towards the learn-by-heart kind of students. Last year we saw the viral pics of Bihar board examination where parents of students appearing the exams resorted to debauched cheats.

HRD ministry has urged the state and central boards to contemplate opting for open-book examinations at secondary and senior secondary levels of board assessment. Yes, our HRD ministry has been in more controversies than reformative measures in the field of education but that aside, this could be a change worth considering.

Open-book exams let students take help from the textbooks and their notes. The questions would not be based on “memorize and produce the same” but on testing how well the students understand the concept and their capability to apply the same while solving questions.


1. Schools in our country are producing more leaners than utilizers. We are taught to learn-by-heart and produce the same in the examinations, regardless of whether or not we understand the concept. While some are born smarter and use their skills in paying more attention to the concept, more students find it easy to learn and produce when they can’t understand. Rote memory still gets the upper hand in our examination system and that is not a good thing especially when conceptualization is compromised.

2. The reason why we believe what we see and hear in media reports, regardless of whether it is true or a mere gimmick, is because we were taught to believe in what is legible and tangible. We do not ponder upon the ways of life that have been thrust upon us for centuries. We would simply call it tradition and the most repeated exclamation of all – “that’s how it has always been.” Did we care to think why it needs to be the way it is? Not all of us would!

3. We have all read about global warming, environment pollution and its effects, the utter need of cleanliness in society but we do lack an insight into these concepts for we just read and wrote and confined it to the theories. Our students need to think and then visualize what it would be like to apply the knowledge in real life practices. Open book examination will promote these things that are much needed for the future of our country.

4. The assessment system that Indian boards follow do not help differentiate between highly meritorious students and average students since question papers are usually easy and of the rote and produce type. Too many students score highest percentages which further makes it difficult during college selection procedures. Open book exams would have categories of easy, moderate and difficult set of questions that will test the understanding and problem solving skills of students on varied levels.

5. Our education system is seriously lacking skill and value orientation, not to mention the kind of stress that students face due to the vast syllabus. Instead of focusing on understanding the concept, students are more concerned about covering the entire syllabus only to the extent of answering the kind of questions that are expected to be asked. Open-books tests would boost confidence of the students and they would concentrate more on understanding the context rather than memorizing them. Lesser psychological stress would also enhance the learning capability to good extent.


1. Open books exams are not easier as some would think. The questions are complex and not to the point unlike the common exams that have direct answers. The question paper is so designed to cross check the understanding of students, having books and notes open in front of them would do nothing more than boost confidence. Average students and low meritorious students would feel more stressed than ever and that would show adversely on their grade sheets.

2. Open books exams are meant to test the understanding of the students and the theories in the textbooks are of no help unless they are well acquainted about the context. The time allotted to solve the paper is most likely to be lowered as reported by students who have faced open-book exams at other levels, while the answers would need to be well briefed. More stress for students with low IQ!

3. The overconfident lot of students would simply give up hard work for exams. Copying, or so would many think, is an easy work and with the books open students would simply pay no heed towards memorizing certain things that are needed to be learnt. Since the question paper would be divided into sections of easy, average and hard, these students would easily pass the examination simply covering the easy lot that would be stress-free with the books open.

4. Students who would face open book examinations at secondary and senior secondary boards would get used to it and would plea the same system when they go for higher studies. They would face difficulty when they will have to sit for competitive exams where similar system would not prevail. Imagine students ignoring the part where they learn the mathematical formulae or chemical symbols. They would hardly pay attention to these by-hearting parts and would face problems later.

5. While knowledge and understanding is important, it cannot be denied that memorizing certain things is also crucial. Students would stop the habit of memorizing which would slowly make it difficult for them to memorize things later. These skills need to be developed and not done away with completely. Open book examinations have been a controversial topic for a certain reason and those reasons need to be considered before bringing in any such change.


Open-book examination might have its aces but the shortcomings are also not negligible. Only with proper weightage to these aspects board exams could be expected to have this changed system of evaluation. However, given that this would be a new concept for students, it should rather be introduced to students in classes 9 and 11 so that they would know what to expect.

Along with understanding of the concept and questions that would need utilizing of the knowledge of students, it should also be noted that teachers be made ready to evaluate students based on their understanding and not on a one answer-question system.

If HRD ministry succeeds in introducing the open-book examination system along with taking care of the disadvantages that could prevail, this system would be a good change in the education system of our country. India will then produce more innovators and opportunity creators than job-oriented diplomats.
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  • RE: Open book exams - A better option at board level -amol sapkale (01/12/16)
  • NO i think open book exam wont glorify the hidden abilities of students , that will b like mouth feeding a teenager. not only competition wont stand for longer but there will be no better generation. open book exams not only motivate the laziness in youth but also it will be reduce the seriousness of education among students..
  • RE: Open book exams - A better option at board level -Deepa Kaushik (01/12/16)
  • Open book exams is just a measure to lure the students. This method would actually prove much more fatal for the students. Open book test is the smart way to befool the students who don’t understand the intention of the examiner. An open book test is a lot more tough to crack than an ordinary examination.

    It is not a easy mean for the students to fetch every answer from the book to jot down in the examination. The examination papers are set to be completed within the restricted time. Students often complain of having a long paper set which made them hurry down and cut-short their answers or which make them unable to complete the answering table. In this scenario, fetching for the answer would actually waste much of their precious time to give the answers.

    Again, even if the student is aware of the pages where they could get the topics of the answer, they cannot write down the bookish text altogether. The text-books are meant to be explanatory notes for the students. The answers should be precise and in required format instead of the bookish language. Students might not get enough time to copy down the entire story from the book.

    When students need to know the pages of the topics and the content in the topic in order to complete the exam, the it precisely means that students need to study well for the examinations and should be aware of all the contents in the text-books. At the end we are summing up the story on the same lines for the students to study completely and thoroughly to perform well, then why should there be any kind of bate for the poor students. Yes, this might help a few poor chaps who get on the verge of failing the examinations as they might restrict themselves to answering few questions, again only if they know and are able to search those topics.

    Hence, the open book test is an unwanted confusion for the students which should not be burdened on them.