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Open book tests – the cons and pros


Open book tests seem to be more rewarding and intellectual. Opening up a book in an exam hall and looking up an answer seems to be more analytical than learning an answer by rote.

According to a principal of a Delhi-based school, “Open book tests must be implemented in a systematic manner. Students need to be given material that is challenging and fits the format. The questions must also be set in a way that will make students think and understand concepts. Stock questions won’t do.”

A few others opine that this format will make students understand the inter-relationship between different concepts and write answers to specific questions in their own words. However, it is necessary here to mention that students can often bring in their own perspectives and viewpoints while writing answers, and this, as a result, can influence the way various teachers interpret their answers. This is especially true in subjects like Civics and Political Science.

Just like every format in any educational exercise, this format also comes with its own advantages as well as pitfalls.The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the format:


  • Students who have good writing skills have a good scope to score marks.
  • This format will open up competition in a completely different way, as a student’s analytical and comprehension skills can be evaluated in a much better way.
  • It will enable a student to synthesize different concepts, even as she or he analyzes a concept as a single idea.
  • It will provide teachers with a better opportunity to understand learning outcomes and learning gaps. Teachers will also be able to figure out if a student has misunderstood any 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 be time-consuming.
  • Misinterpreting a question can lead to poor results.
  • When the question papers are badly set, they become a superficial exercise.
  • The format needs to be made conducive for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities, which is a challenge for teachers.

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