Evaluation: is an open book examination easier?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Biomedical and Sports Science




Brightwell, R., Daniel, J. H., & Stewart, A. (2004). Evaluation: Is an open book examination easier?. Bioscience Education, 3(1), 1-10.


In terms of the assessment of students, it is generally accepted that open book examinations create an enriched environment, offering the student an opportunity to better understand and respond to a particular question. The present study provided the opportunity to examine this assumption and test it in a controlled manner. During the study of an introductory University Anatomy and Physiology unit, students were required to complete two assessments. The first assessment was an online multiple-choice examination with 50 questions either reviewing concepts or requiring critical thinking and clinical applications. This test was first undertaken by students (N=196) in class time. The results were analysed and the opportunity was offered for the students to repeat the test with the assistance of their textbooks. Upon repeating the test under these conditions it was shown that there was no significant difference between the means of the scores. It was concluded that a suitably constructed set of questions could be used to discriminate student abilities in either an open or closed book environment.

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