Open book exams are seen as a godsend by many while others dislike the very concept

The concept of open book exams, wherein students are allowed to carry study material such as textbooks with them into the examination hall, has long been in existence in foreign countries. However, in India, it is still a new concept that is slowly gaining recognition. While a few colleges like the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and the International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore, already have open book exam systems in place for certain subjects, the concept evades many other colleges in the city.

The subject lends itself to a plethora of mixed emotions, with its critics fearing it may produce lazy students, while others have hailed it as an effective method of improving students’ analytical skills while doing away with rote learning. The Hindu EducationPlus finds out how it has impacted students in the city.

Saatvika Rathor, first year MBBS, Vydehi Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Bangalore

I am against the open book exam system. Truthfully, I feel the open book assignments we have had so far took the challenge out of learning and writing on our own. In the medical field open book exams are of little use as once we go to the clinical side we will hardly be able to refer to books in front of a patient. They may only prove useful to help us get an orientation of a new or difficult topic. Open book exams definitely make students lazier as chances are they might not even open the book previously. Open book exams shouldn’t be introduced uniformly for all subjects, at least in medical colleges. They do, however, play a role in reducing the stress levels of students. When carried out appropriately, they may even reduce the final exam tension by acting as a study aid.

Roopashi Khatri, third year, B.A. LL.B. (Hons.), National Law School of India University, Bangalore

I am in favour of open book exams. It’s logical and helpful to have a list of cases and legal principles to answer law school exams, most of which are problem-based. I’ve always enjoyed those exams. The course is usually more engaging than the others, since the teacher aims at helping the reasoning faculties of the students rather than requiring rote work. I don’t think open book exams make students lazier. If the question paper is problem-based, there’s no way a student get away with simply copying the cases before him. I’m all for uniformity of courses, but unfortunately, that’s not something professors and administrators in NLUs would be comfortable with. The open book system definitely plays a role in reducing the stress levels of students. There’s no reason why a law student should be required to mug up large number of cases before the exam, especially when law school life is stressful in itself.

Pallavi Anantharam, second year, B.A. LL.B. (Hons.), National Law School of India University, Bangalore

I’m in favour of open book exams because of the fact that it’s much easier on the memory. For a closed book exam, if you forget something, there is a high possibility of losing more marks, whereas with an open book exam, you only have to look for it within the material and you’ll find it. Also, it helps to substantiate your answer better. I don’t think it makes students lazier because in my experience, the day before the open book exam is when most of the studying happens. You need to know where the information is exactly, so tagging and highlighting becomes important since you can’t search for it in the middle of the exam. Hence, it makes people work more as you have to necessarily read the materials in order to write the exam.

I don’t think the system should be introduced for all subjects uniformly because there are some subjects which are concept oriented and the only way of testing a student in that subject is by ensuring it is a closed book exam (the student will be forced to study then). As far as stress levels of students go, on one hand, open book exams do reduce pressure on you to memorise, and on the other, there is so much material to read that you don’t know if you can cover everything in time. My personal experience has been interesting. The material only helps to substantiate the point I am trying to make in my answer, the answer itself will not be found directly in the material. So, overall, I still need to understand the material and write the answer rather than just copying everything from the material.

Shiva Ashish, first year, Integrated M.Tech., International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore

I am in favour of the open book exam system. However, I do think they tend to make students lazier. Ideally, a good open book system wouldn’t reward lazy students; however, it’s rare to find such good systems. I don’t think they should be introduced uniformly for all subjects; an open book exam for a subject like History defeats the entire purpose of the exam. Open book exams do reduce stress levels of students, because of the comfort that you can look at formulae if need be. So far I’ve only written open book exams in programming, where referring to books hasn’t been too helpful. It only helps with the syntax; we still have to come up with the algorithm and logic ourselves.

Krishna Reddy, first year, Bachelor of Engineering, R.V. College of Engineering

I am in favour of open book exams. In conventional examinations, what is tested is not the understanding of the subject but the amount of time you spent in solving different types of problems. But in real world situations, the problems you face are not ones you’ve already dealt with and what matters is your ability to tackle problems you’ve never come across.

In this context, open book exams help in nurturing this ability to approach new problems in a different and creative manner instead of just following a mundane, straitjacket way of approaching the same situation. I don’t think they would make children lazier but actually make them more involved in the subjects, as the pressure of learning for exams would be off their mind.

However, introducing them in all subjects does not make sense. The subjects in which solutions can be achieved in different ways may be given first priority and new ways could be devised for subjects that require direct answers. Open book exams play a major role in reducing stress levels and give students ample time to think of out-of-the-box solutions instead of simply mugging up from textbooks. On the whole, they would have a positive impact on the present education scenario.

Neeti Sivakumar, first year, Bachelor of Architecture, R.V. College of Engineering

I’d be in favour of open book exams in my college, if these exams are based on the fact that a student would actually try understanding subjects to answer questions. Personally, I would usually go through a chapter for a closed book exam with the thought of memorising in mind.

Coming from a background where open exams were never really held, I can’t say I know whether they make students lazier but depending on the situation they are held in, they probably reduce the stress to study everything. If they are ever at all introduced formally, making them uniform in all theory subjects rather than practical subjects is a good idea.