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Open book tests – the cons and pros

Open book tests – the cons and pros

An open book tests seems more attractive and intellectual on the face of it. Opening up a book in an exam hall and looking up an answer seems analytical and intellectual because learning an answer by rote is impossible in such a system

Says Suparna Mehrotra, Principal of Delhi School of Excellence, “Open book tests must be implemented in a systematic manner. They need to be given material that is challenging and fits the format. The questions must also be set in a way that will make them think and understand the concepts. Stock questions won’t do.” Just like every format in any educational exercise, this format comes with its own advantages as well as pitfalls.

A few others opine that the format will make them understand the inter-relationship between different concepts and write the answer to specific questions in their own words. However, we need to note that students can often bring in their own perspectives and viewpoints while writing answers, and this, as a result, can also affect the way different teachers interpret their answers. This is especially true in subjects such as Civics and Political Science.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the format:


– Students who have good writing skills have a good scope to score marks.

– It will open up competition in a completely different way because a student’s analytical and comprehension skills are tested much better.

– Helps a student synthesise different concepts even as she or he analyses a concept as a single idea.

– Gives a teacher better opportunity to understand the learning gaps. She will also be able to figure out if a pupil has misunderstood an idea or a concept – this is because rote-learning fails in open book tests considering that questions are not asked typically from a question bank.


– Correcting answer sheets can get time-consuming.

– Misinterpreting a question can lead to poor results.

– When the question papers are badly set, they become a superficial exercise.

– Also, it encourages students to take their minds off one subject completely to study for     the next.

– The format has also to be made conducive to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, which is a challenge for teachers.

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