The future of exams and open book tests

(Jannat Yaqobi)

Throughout all of our educational careers, there has been one thing that has been utterly consistent: exams.

Let’s first define what an exam is, not to denote that you as a student do not unfortunately already know. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an exam is “a test of a student’s knowledge or skill in a particular subject.” 

I am not going to deny that I have had an experience or two of a test truly being “enjoyable” and upholding the definition, but as a student, do exams always do this? 

Do exams truly represent a student’s knowledge or skill? 

Exams have been one of those nagging things that most despise. You work hard throughout the semester, complete your assignments, participate, life is good, and then BOOM! It all leads to one nerve-wracking day where your memorization skills are put to the test. 

There you are, vigorously typing away, your hands are sweating, brain spiraling — it’s a big mess. A whole semester’s worth of hard work into one day where your nerves and anxiety get the best of you.

Now yes, exams have changed drastically in the last year and a half or so due to the pandemic and the shift to online learning. Many exams have become open book and students are responding well to it (while holding academic integrity of course). 

With open books exams, students take more efficient notes. Their attention shifts to engaging and truly learning within their classes and are not always on the brink of over-stimulated memorization. Simply put, students are actually learning while enjoying their courses. 

The interesting thing is that the way exams function for our school system is not a universal practice. Many top-rated educational systems in Scandinavian countries have shifted the way they conduct tests or exams for their students. Finland, as an example, does not have “mandated standardized tests.” Their goal is to not create or subscribe to a culture of “rankings” or “competitions” within their students. 

Most things within the world have evolved and changed for the better. Functions and systems that do not work have been discarded, and new ways are brought out. Imagine if we were stuck with the cordless phone until now, or if carriages for transportation were kept. That would be terrible, wouldn’t it?

Then why has there been no essential change or reform to the “western” education system? School is the most important sector, where the next generation is raised and taught, yet old and unappreciated methods still linger. 

I doubt that complete reform of getting rid of exams as a whole will come true in Canada or the U.S., but universities and governments have the responsibility to take care of their students and prepare them for the future. Taking this shift into permanently keeping open book exams is possible and could revolutionize learning. 

Open book exams are here and we are not ready to let it go. 

About the Author

By Jannat Yaqobi

Former Editor

Jannat is a first year Criminology student at York. Along with being part of Excalibur, she is also part of the Criminology Society, SCOLAPS, and the YFS. She has a passion for reading, writing (particularly spoken word and slam), photography, and watching classic and vintage movies. Apart from juggling her busy (and at times hectic) schedule, one can occasionally find Jannat journaling, graphic designing, or watching Golden Girls with her mom or Friends with a cup of black tea.


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