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Open-book exams for engineering students on the table

Open book exams would allow students to take notes, text book and resource materials into an exam hall.

education Updated: Apr 29, 2018 08:09 IST
Neelam Pandey
Neelam Pandey
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Open book exam,Engineering students,engineering courses
A four-member committee on exam reform has recommended an “open book examination” for engineering courses.(Shutterstock)

In an attempt to discourage rote learning and to test the analytical abilities of students, a four-member committee on exam reform has recommended an “open book examination” for engineering courses. The panel, which was formed in January, has submitted its report on the examination and other recommendations to the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the apex regulator of technical education.

According to a senior official, the report is being examined by the AICTE and the human resource development (HRD) ministry following which a decision on its implementation will be taken. The recommendation, if accepted, will be applicable to engineering and technical institutes regulated by the AICTE.

Open book exams would allow students to take notes, text book and resource materials into an exam hall. Students would be able to consult the material when answering questions, which are structured to test their understanding of concepts rather than merely the ability to memorise facts and figures.

Experts welcomed the move but cautioned that such reforms need to be implemented with care. “Exam reforms cannot be done in isolation; it has to go with teaching reforms,” said Pradipta Banerji,a professor at the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay. “Unless we do that we cannot achieve much...”

Some of the other recommendations by the committee include devising question papers at various levels of difficulty in line with the differing capabilities of students. The committee has recommended the use of the so-called Bloom’s taxonomy framework to set examination papers that are well balanced, testing the different cognitive skills of students without the papers being perceived as either tough or easy.

Bloom’s taxonomy is a tool to help develop learning objectives, which are classified as cognitive, sensory and affective.

“It is recommended that at institution/ University level, upper limit need to be arrived for lower order skills (for example, no more than 40% weightage for knowledge oriented questions). It is important to note that, as nature of every course is different, the weightage for different cognitive levels in the question papers can also vary from course to course,” said the report, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times.

The concept of open book examination has been proposed to overcome the deficiencies of traditional written examinations, which the committee said often tend to encourage rote learning and superficial application of knowledge.

According to the report, such exams are particularly useful in testing skills in application, analysis and evaluation. “Open book examination is similar to time constrained written examinations but designed in a way that allows students to refer to either class notes, textbooks, or other approved material while answering questions so they are less demanding on memory and hence less stressful, questions can emphasise on problem solving, and higher order thinking,” it said.

“However, in a programme, the courses or the curriculum areas that are best suited to an open book exam are to be carefully chosen,” it said.

According to the report, while examinations/student assessments play a critical role in deciding the quality of education, the academic quality of examinations and question papers in Indian engineering education system has been a matter of concern for a long time.

Some of the measures suggested by the committee include introducing educational experiences to teach and assess professional outcomes including open-ended experiments in laboratories and project-based learning modules, mini/minor projects, internship experiences among others.

“A wide range of assessment methods (example; term papers, open ended problem solving assignments, course/lab project rubrics, portfolios) need to be employed to ensure that assessment methods match with learning outcomes,” it said.

First Published: Apr 29, 2018 07:07 IST