Are Open-Book Tests Better?

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Recently, the Central Board of Secondary Education in India has allowed open book exams to be administered to students. This is a response to the institution of cheating among Indian students, which includes the bribery of police officers, teachers, principals, and school board directors. This alternative testing method is a welcome alternative to the archaic form of closed book, individual tests.

In the modern world where the Internet can instantly supply us answers makes the fact that we cannot even use books to aid ourselves in tests plain unrealistic. There is not a single example in the marketplace where you are not allowed to use external resources to help supply sufficient answers.

However, there is plausible incentive to require students to have ready knowledge of their subject material. This is common sense in reference to job efficiency. If an engineer needs to be continuously Googling the derivatives of Cos, the employee will be inefficient and revenue will be lost. This leads to the most common argument against open book tests. That students will just use their books to get the test questions correct and then forget the material immediately after. In fact, the inverse is true.

Two studies conducted by Washington University in St. Louis have demonstrated that open book tests lead to better retention of subject material after two weeks and a full year. Intuitively, they simultaneously increased test scores as well.

So, if open book tests are more realistic, lead to better retention, better test scores, and a growing world power has instituted this system, why is the U.S. so reluctant to try it? I have no idea. The U.S. spends more money on its students than any other country in the world, yet we have slid to 14 in the rankings of best education systems. How is this possible? It is because we are stuck with a 200 year-old outdated educational system and refuse to implement sensible reforms. Welcome to the 21st century America, hopefully you’ll show up.