Open-Note illustration

(Gabriela Mendoza / Daily Titan)

In the educational sphere, the strong emphasis on exceptional grades is recognized as the path to success. However, tests become a challenge of memorization, rather than employing critical thinking and concept application, so students may not receive the full richness of a higher education. Traditional closed-book, closed-note exams amplify stress and anxiety in students’ lives, causing them to feed into cram culture for tests. 

Exams and quizzes should employ an open-note standard for better learning, reduced test anxiety and a more realistic approach to what a future career in any subject actually looks like. 

Closed-book and closed-note exams or quizzes lend themselves to a fact based testing system with less critical thinking skills. They often involve heavy memorization and quick response time, as opposed to allowing students to thoroughly demonstrate their understanding of the material. 

According to an article published in 2015 by The American Society For Cell Biology, open-note testing has been proven to improve students’ methods when preparing for tests. Students are more likely to prepare for open-note exams by compiling information from multiple sources, which aids in the development of critical thinking. 

Open-note quizzes can promote effective note taking skills and sharpened study skills. According to an academic journal article, “Assessing the Impact of Testing Aids on Post-Secondary Student Performance: A Meta-Analytic Investigation,” creating a note sheet for exams or quizzes can help students properly organize and prioritize the class material. 

The open-note approach not only leads to the mastery of the concepts, but it can help alleviate exam anxiety.

Test anxiety contributes to a wide array of prolonged issues including lower scholastic achievement, psychological distress and even ill health, according to Moshe Zeidner of “Test Anxiety: The State of the Art.” Zeidner adds that with test scores determining entrance to universities and vocational schools, test anxiety that results in lower test scores can be detrimental to students’ streak of success. 

In a real job environment, people have access to notes, research sources and studies, which begs the question as to why that should not be standard in educational test environments. According to Ali Rezaei’s research article, “Frequent collaborative quiz taking and conceptual learning,” an open-book exam is a more authentic experience comparable to future careers. 

In addition, the open-book and open-note structure can be more advantageous for specific subjects that rely on critical analysis and application. The same article uses psychology courses as an example where an open-book test structure helped improve exam scores and relieve test anxiety. 

Students already have enough to worry about with working, attending school and internships. Ultimately, taking test stress and anxiety out of the equation would prove to be beneficial for their overall physical and mental health. 

Another research article published in 2015 by two professors from the University of Helsinki, Finland found that 57% of the students felt that they learned more through the open-book examination style. According to the analysis of the study, the results supported the concept that open assessments “encourage higher cognitive processes,” help develop deeper learning principles and have the potential to improve interest in a subject. 

Some may argue that there is no significant difference in scores for open-note, open-book exams and closed-note, closed-book exams. However, the benefits of less stress and the probability of improved critical thinking skills far outweighs the minimal difference. 

In addition, professors may be concerned that students will fail to learn simple facts, but if students are spending time with the material and formulating notes from a variety of sources, then the students are more than likely to review the facts multiple times and remember them. 

According to the Education Data Initiative, 40% of undergraduate students dropout of college in the United States. In addition, almost one-third of college freshmen drop out of college before they get to their sophomore year. 

While there are multitudes of reasons that students drop out, reduced test-anxiety, more authentic testing scenarios and real-life applications of critical thinking and cognitive development would aid in softening the statistics.

An open-note exam has a higher likelihood of ensuring students’ academic success. Around-the-clock, students spend hours creating study guides to prepare for tests, which should warrant their use in an exam scenario. 

Eventually, students will excel when learning how to prepare for an open-note exam as it becomes more commonplace in educational systems. Apprehensiveness would dissipate and students would be relieved at the glance of an A+ on their open-note exams. 

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