“During the exam, students can refer to course materials in physical form as well as on the web. However, obtaining responses from others in any way and group discussions will be considered professional misconduct,” said a circular to the affiliated colleges of the university course center, Anna University.
All questions will be analytical with no direct answers from textbooks or reference books. Students must write the exam on paper and upload the answer sheets after the exams. For final year students, exams will be conducted online with multiple-choice questions.
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Former Vice Chancellor of Anna University E Balagurusamy said the open book test is a very good concept and a popular examination method. “Open book tests must be taken in a controlled environment and students must complete the test within a specific time frame. With analytical questions, you cannot copy the answer from the book. Only the smartest can shine in open-book tests, because you have to know where exactly they should look for answers in the book,” he said. He said, however, that running open-book tests statewide would be a challenge because internet connection speeds might not be fast everywhere.
VE Annamalai, principal of SSN College of Engineering in Chennai, said students should understand the concepts and apply the knowledge in the tests. “Although they have books, students may not be able to answer questions. Conventional exams test students’ knowledge, while open-book tests will test their understanding and application,” he said.
B Chidambararajan, principal of SRM Valliammai Engineering College, said the open-book test would be a huge change for students taking MCQ-based exams. “The percentage of success may drop. These students have traditionally prepared for memory-based exams. If the university asks analytical questions, a majority of them will even struggle to identify the units from which the question is asked,” he said.
Reputable universities such as Sastra have conducted open book tests. “We can be creative while formulating questions. There will not be one right answer and it will test the creativity and conceptual understanding of the students,” said S Vaidyasubramaniam, Vice Chancellor of SASTRA.
Colleges such as Loyola had the open-book test for the first internal assessment, but are reverting to proctored online tests for semester exams based on parent feedback. “Parents believe that conventional exams are the best way to test students. We need to train our faculty to ask questions for open book exams and educate parents, as this will enable students to develop problem-solving ability and apply concepts,” said Thomas Amirtham, Director of Loyola College.