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Mudda Aapka: Open Book Exam

  • 01 Mar 2024
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), National Curriculum Framework (NCF), Open Book Exam (OBE), Open Text Based Assessment (OBTA), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), National Education Policy, 2020, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS)

For Mains: Impact of Open Book Exam (OBE) on Indian Education System.

Why in News?

  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) is planning a trial run for open book exams in Classes 9 to 12.
    • Subjects like English, Mathematics, and Science will be included for Classes 9 and 10, while English, Mathematics, and Biology will be included for Classes 11 and 12.
    • This approach is based on the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) released last year.
    • The pilot test will be created jointly by the CBSE and Delhi University.

What is an Open Book Exam (OBE)?

  • About:
    • An open book exam (OBE) allows students to use their books and notes while answering questions. There are two types of OBE exam:
      • Restricted Type: In a restricted OBE, only approved study material is allowed.
      • Free Type: Students can use any relevant material.
  • Aim:
    • To transform the entire assessment process.
    • Empower students to synthesize, organize, and analyze problems.
    • To develop problem-solving skills and promote critical thinking.

What are the Previous Examples of OBE Implementation?

  • In 2014, CBSE introduced Open Text Based Assessment (OBTA) to ease the burden of memorization and promote information processing skills.
  • It was implemented in Class 9 for subjects like Hindi, English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science, and in the final exams of Class 11 for subjects such as Economics, Biology, and Geography.
  • It was discontinued in the 2017-18 academic year due to its failure to develop critical thinking skills among students.
  • In 2019, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) permitted open book exams in engineering colleges following a recommendation from an advisory body.
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, various Central universities, like Delhi University, Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Aligarh Muslim University, conducted open book tests to evaluate students.
  • Additionally, IIT Delhi, IIT Indore, and IIT Bombay conducted online OBEs.
  • Kerala's higher education exam reforms commission proposed the open book format but limited it to internal or practical exams.

Do Open Book Exams Pose Less Difficulty?

  • Open Book Assessments aren't simpler compared to traditional exams.
  • They're crafted to evaluate comprehension beyond mere facts and definitions.
  • Crafting questions for an open-book exam can be challenging for teachers because, unlike traditional exams, questions cannot be straightforward.

What Promoted CBSE for the Open Book Exam?

  • The CBSE's proposal aligns with broader reforms planned in the school education system.
  • Although the National Education Policy, 2020 doesn't explicitly mention open-book exams, it emphasizes shifting from memorization to competency-based learning.
    • For example, students should understand and demonstrate concepts like photosynthesis practically, showing the impact of sunlight on plants through projects.
  • The National Curriculum Framework for School Education also emphasizes the need to revamp assessment methods.
  • The current system often focuses on rote learning and creates anxiety.
  • The framework suggests assessments that cater to diverse learning styles, offer constructive feedback and aid in achieving learning goals.
  • The CBSE’s proposal falls in line with the larger reforms planned in the National Education Policy, 2020.

What Do Studies Indicate About Open Book Exams?

  • A 2021 study involving medical students from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Bhubaneswar found that open book exams were less stressful.
  • Another pilot study, published in Cambridge University Press in 2020, aimed to assess the feasibility and acceptability of online open-book exams.
    • Among the 98 students involved, 21.4% failed while 78.6% passed.
    • Feedback from 55 participating students indicated that the main advantage of this type of assessment was its low-stress nature, although network connectivity issues were a common complaint.
  • Additionally, a 2021 study on the use of open book exams for students at Delhi University (DU) revealed that although the mean marks obtained in an OBE were higher than in closed book exams, the university didn't focus on cultivating the necessary skills for students to excel in open book assessments.

What are the Other Government Initiatives Related to Educational Reforms?

What is the National Curriculum Framework?

  • About:
    • NCF is one of the key components of the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020, that enables and energizes this transformation, informed by the aims, principles, and approach of NEP 2020.
    • The NCF has undergone four revisions in the past - in 1975, 1988, 2000, and 2005. The proposed revision, if implemented, would be the fifth iteration of the framework.
  • Four Sections of NCF:
  • Objective:
    • It aims to help in positively transforming the school education system of India as envisioned in NEP 2020, through corresponding positive changes in the curriculum including pedagogy.
    • It aims to realize the highest quality education for all children, consistent with realizing an equitable, inclusive, and plural society as envisaged by the Constitution of India.

What is the National Education Policy 2020?

  • About:
    • The NEP 2020 is a comprehensive framework for education reform in India that was approved in 2020, aiming to bring significant changes in the education system of India by providing a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to education.
  • Features of the NEP 2020:
    • Universalization of education from preschool to secondary level.
    • Introduction of a new pedagogical and curricular structure based on the cognitive and socio-emotional development of students.
    • Emphasis on the development of foundational literacy and numeracy skills in primary education.
    • Increased focus on research and development in education.

UPSC Civil Services Examination, Previous Year Question (PYQ)


Q. Which of the following provisions of the Constitution does India have a bearing on Education? (2012)

  1. Directive Principles of State Policy
  2. Rural and Urban Local Bodies
  3. Fifth Schedule
  4. Sixth Schedule
  5. Seventh Schedule

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 3, 4 and 5 only
(c) 1, 2 and 5 only
(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Ans- (d)


Q1. How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate on your answer. (2020)

Q2. Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and point out the measures to achieve them in India in detail. (2021)

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