Is CBSE considering open book exams for Class 9 to 12? Here’s what you should know about OBE |

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Media reports suggest that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is contemplating the implementation of Open Book Examinations (OBE) for students in Classes 9 to 12, aligning with the suggestions of the new National Curriculum Framework introduced last year. Sources indicate that the Board is planning a trial of Open Book tests in select schools for subjects like English, Mathematics, and Science for Classes 9 and 10, and English, Mathematics, and Biology for Classes 11 and 12.This trial aims to assess the time students require to finish such tests and gather feedback from stakeholders.
It has been reported that the pilot programme is likely to be scheduled in November-December of this year. Following the pilot, the Board will evaluate whether or not to implement this form of assessment across all its schools for Classes 9 to 12. The pilot will primarily assess higher-order thinking skills, including application, analysis, critical and creative thinking, as well as problem-solving abilities.
The Board aims to finalize the design and development of the OBE pilot by June and has chosen to seek advice from Delhi University (DU). Despite facing opposition, DU implemented open-book tests in August 2020 during the Covid pandemic, which had caused disruptions to the academic calendar.
What is OBE all about?
An Open Book Exam is a type of assessment where students are allowed to consult their textbooks, notes, and other reference materials during the test. Unlike traditional closed-book exams, which rely on memorization, Open Book Exams emphasize comprehension, application, and critical thinking skills. These exams are often used in higher education settings, particularly in subjects where understanding concepts and applying knowledge is more important than rote memorization.
One of the main benefits of open-book exams is that they encourage students to delve deeper into the material. Instead of simply regurgitating facts, students must understand the underlying concepts and be able to apply them to different scenarios. This promotes a deeper level of learning and can lead to a better understanding of the subject matter.
Another advantage of Open Book Exams is that they can reduce stress levels for students. Since they are allowed to use their notes and textbooks, students may feel more confident in their ability to answer the questions. This can lead to a more relaxed testing environment and a more positive overall experience.
Challenges of Open Book Exam
Open Book Exams, while beneficial in promoting deeper understanding and reducing stress, present several challenges for both students and educators. Here are five of them for you.
Time Consuming: This format requires careful preparation and organization. Students must anticipate the types of questions that may be asked and ensure they have relevant materials readily accessible. This can be time-consuming and may lead to information overload, as students try to bring too many resources into the exam environment.
Thorough study is required: OBE can be misleading in terms of preparation. Some students may underestimate the level of understanding required, assuming they can rely solely on their materials. As a result, they may not study the material as thoroughly as they would for a closed-book exam, leading to lower performance.
Time management may be difficult: This format can also present challenges in terms of time management. Students may spend too much time searching for information in their materials, leaving them with insufficient time to answer all the questions or to think critically about their responses.
Risk of plagiarism: There is a risk of plagiarism or cheating in OBEs, especially if students are not closely monitored. With access to a wide range of resources, some students may be tempted to copy answers or use unauthorized materials, compromising the integrity of the assessment.
May not be fit for all subjects: Open Book Exams may not be suitable for all subjects or learning outcomes. Some disciplines require a level of memorization and recall that open-book exams do not encourage. Additionally, certain skills, such as problem-solving or critical thinking, may be more effectively assessed through closed-book formats that challenge students to apply knowledge without external aids.
Open Book Exams from around the world
OBEs are used in various forms around the world, each tailored to the specific requirements of different subjects and educational systems. Here are five examples of how open-book exams are implemented.
Law Schools in the United States: In law schools, open-book exams are common due to the emphasis on understanding legal principles and applying them to hypothetical scenarios. Students are allowed to bring in their textbooks, notes, and other materials. These exams typically consist of complex legal scenarios or case studies, and students must analyze the facts, identify relevant laws, and apply them to the situation to argue their case.
Engineering Exams in Germany: In Germany, open-book exams are used in engineering courses, where students are required to solve complex engineering problems. They are allowed to bring in reference materials, such as formula sheets and textbooks. The exams are designed to test students’ problem-solving abilities and their understanding of engineering concepts, rather than their ability to memorize formulas.
Medical Schools in Australia: In medical schools in Australia, Open Book Exams are used to assess students’ clinical reasoning skills. Students are allowed access to patient case studies and they can also refer to medical textbooks and research articles to diagnose the condition and recommend treatment. These exams simulate real-world medical practice, where doctors often consult reference materials to make informed decisions.
Economics Exams in the United Kingdom: In the UK, OBEs are sometimes used in economics courses, particularly in essay-based assessments. Students are allowed to bring in relevant economic theories and data to support their arguments in essays. These exams focus on students’ ability to critically analyze economic issues and develop well-supported arguments, rather than memorizing economic concepts.
Computer Science Exams in India: In some universities in India, Open Book Exams are used in computer science courses to test students’ programming skills. Students are allowed to use their laptops and access the internet to write code and solve programming problems. These exams assess their ability to apply programming concepts to solve real-world problems and encourage them to use online resources effectively.

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