Friday, March 4, 2011

Life Is An Open Book Test

Closed-book tests are simply unrealistic. In the real world, everything can be looked up for confirmation. It is very often true that open-book tests are more difficult than their closed-book counterparts, but that is no strain for any properly prepared student.

So shouldn't a "properly prepared student" be able to take a closed book test just as easily? Not necessarily.

Closed-book tests are about memorizing information, which not everybody is good at. Many students will file the information away in their short-term memory, very little into long term, and when the test is over and done with, the information will be forgotten.

Open-book tests teach two things: the benefit of good note taking and how to look for answers that you don't know. Closed book tests punish you for not knowing all the answers, while few people will always know all the answers; this puts undue strain on the student and often makes them perform at even lower levels.

Good note taking is an important skills, which relegates not only to what and how much to write down, but how to organize your notes. For hand-written notes, this is important (at least until paper notebooks start coming with a search function) in order to find the answer. However, search functions aren't an end-all; the data and information that they're finding has be to readable and understandable, concise as well as thorough. That is a difficult balance to achieve.

There's no shame in not knowing all the answers. There is shame in being unwilling to look for the right answer and instead preferring to be wrong than to learn how to be right. Closed-book tests will punish the student for being wrong, but there is little reward for being right; open book tests reward you for being willing to admit that you might not know the answer, and this can significantly reduce the amount of stress on the student.

Life is an open-book test: nobody expects you to know all the answers, but they do expect you to be willing to raise your hand and ask for help if you need it.