NEW DELHI: In a landmark move, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) convened in December 2023 to deliberate on the implementation of open book exams (OBE) for classes 9-12. The proposal, aimed at revolutionizing the assessment paradigm, received extensive discussion among education experts and stakeholders.
The pilot will be held in select schools in November-December for subjects like English, Mathematics and Science for Classes 9 and 10, and English, Mathematics and Biology for Classes 11 and 12. The CBSE has proposed this form of assessment based on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) released last year.
The Director (Academic Assessments) tabled the proposal, outlining plans to develop and pilot OBEs in English, Science, Mathematics, and Biology, aligning with the National Curriculum Framework for School Education (NCFSE) 2023 recommendations. These tests would undergo rigorous pilot testing in schools to evaluate factors like completion time, suitability for formative and summative assessment, and stakeholders’ perceptions. With the proposed timeline envisioning the completion of test development by June 2024 and pilot testing in November-December 2024, the initiative aims to introduce a more holistic approach to evaluating students’ knowledge and skills.
Discussion Unveils Both Enthusiasm and Concerns Over OBE Implementation
Professor Jyoti Sharma, drawing from the University of Delhi’s experience, reiterated concerns during the CBSE meeting. She queried the board’s strategy for adequately training teachers to facilitate open-book assessments among students. Sharma emphasized the necessity for CBSE to be well-prepared to address potential challenges that may arise during this initiative. Additionally, she sought clarification regarding the nature of content CBSE intends to develop for these assessments.
The Director of Academic Assessment provided insights into CBSE’s approach, highlighting alignment with competencies outlined in NCFFSE-2023. Emphasis was placed on cultivating higher-order thinking skills, including application, analysis, critical and creative thinking, and problem-solving. The proposed assessments would integrate visual aids and depart from traditional curriculum-linked case-based questions to explore content beyond syllabi. Despite these innovations, challenges remain in developing high-quality textual materials and ensuring student comprehension and acceptance of this novel assessment method.
Professor Radhey Shyam introduced an innovative suggestion during the meeting: having teachers undergo the open-book exams first. This proactive approach would enable teachers to understand the intricacies of OBE questions and the potential for multiple answers. By experiencing the assessment firsthand, educators can better prepare students and provide effective guidance throughout the process.
Merits of Open Book Exams (OBE)
• Encourages Critical Thinking: OBEs promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills as students are required to analyze information and apply concepts rather than memorize facts. This approach fosters a deeper understanding of the subject matter and enhances students’ ability to think critically in real-world situations.
• Reduces Memorization Pressure: Unlike traditional exams, OBEs reduce the pressure on students to memorize vast amounts of information. Instead, they focus on understanding concepts and accessing resources during the exam, which mimics real-life scenarios where access to information is readily available.
• Promotes Resource Management Skills: OBEs encourage students to effectively manage and utilize available resources, such as textbooks, notes, and online materials, to answer questions. This cultivates resourcefulness and teaches students how to navigate information sources efficiently, a valuable skill in today’s digital age.
• Enhances Learning Engagement: By allowing students to access resources during exams, OBEs make the assessment process more engaging and relevant to real-life situations. Students are actively involved in the learning process, leading to increased motivation and interest in the subject matter.
• Assesses Application of Knowledge: OBEs assess students’ ability to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. By presenting open-ended questions that require analysis and synthesis of information, OBEs evaluate students’ comprehension and application skills, providing a more comprehensive measure of learning outcomes.
Demerits of Open Book Exams (OBE)
• Risk of Dependence on Resources: One of the main criticisms of OBEs is the risk of students becoming overly dependent on external resources during exams. This may lead to a lack of genuine understanding and critical thinking skills if students rely too heavily on reference materials to answer questions.
• Potential for Inequity: OBEs may exacerbate existing inequalities among students, as not all students have equal access to resources such as textbooks, notes, or online materials. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds or with limited access to resources may be at a disadvantage compared to their peers.
• Time Management Challenges: OBEs require strong time management skills to navigate through resources and answer questions within the allotted time frame. Students who struggle with time management may find it challenging to locate relevant information quickly and efficiently, potentially impacting their performance in the exam.
• Difficulty in Assessing Mastery: Evaluating students’ mastery of content in OBEs can be challenging for educators, as the open-book format may mask deficiencies in understanding. It may be difficult to differentiate between students who genuinely understand the material and those who simply know where to find the answers.
• Risk of Academic Dishonesty: OBEs pose a higher risk of academic dishonesty, as students may be tempted to plagiarize or copy answers from external sources. Maintaining academic integrity and ensuring that students adhere to ethical standards during OBEs requires vigilant monitoring and implementation of robust proctoring measures.


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