Comment: Professors should consider giving open-note exams | Comments | Rare Techy


At the start of the pandemic, professors implemented open-note, online exams in their courses. However, as universities returned to face-to-face learning environments, professors returned to the examination of closed notes in person.

Open-note exams can benefit students in more ways than most people think. Therefore, professors should continue to implement open-note exams because they can improve one’s mindset and academic habits and prepare students for their future.

Test anxiety is a mental condition in which a person experiences extreme distress in testing situations. According to Dove Medical Press, approximately 20-45% of students experience test anxiety, which interferes with their ability to give their best effort on exams.

This type of anxiety is a common concern among college students as there is often more pressure to perform well on exams. Emily Gomez, an English sophomore, has dealt with test anxiety for as long as she can remember.

“[With testing anxiety]I’m basically not doing well,” Gomez said. “I know [the material] But because I’m taking an exam and I’m on the spot, I’ll do really badly.”

Professors can reduce the effects of test anxiety by allowing students to use notes on their exams. This will improve the overall experience for students, as they are likely to feel better prepared and less nervous.

Closed-note tests require students to recall information quickly and accurately. Even if one spends hours studying, errors are likely to occur due to information overload. A student’s performance on an exam that requires all of the material to be memorized does not accurately represent their ability to understand the course material.

With the implementation of open-note exams, students will be interested in taking more in-depth notes to prepare. For example, a study from the American Society for Cell Biology showed that students taking an open-note exam compiled their notes and analyzed material from multiple sources.

While preparing for open-note exams, Gomez is sure to be meticulous in her study sessions. As a result, her notes become more detailed and are sure to include some information that she believes she will forget if the test comes before her.

Being able to take practical notes will benefit students in the long run. It can improve one’s concentration and attention to detail. It also teaches students how to prioritize information. Open-note exams don’t require pages upon pages of notes. Instead, students need to highlight the pieces of information that help them the most.

Although some students and professors believe that open-note exams falsely improve test scores, an American Society for Cell Biology study showed no difference in scores between students who used notes and those who did not.

Because of better note-taking among students, professors have the opportunity to make tests more challenging. According to the Washington Post, open-note exams are incredibly beneficial when they focus on critical thinking and problem-solving skills rather than memorization.

To get the most out of an open-note exam, professors should implement short-answer and multiple-choice questions that require students to apply their knowledge and allow students to use the material at hand while testing their understanding of course content. Short answer questions encourage students to apply logic. For this reason, the notes will be helpful, but they will not provide a complete answer.

Open-note exams also have financial benefits for students. According to statistics from the Education Data Initiative, the average in-state undergraduate student spends about $1,226 per academic year on textbooks and other materials. However, according to an article from the Washington Post, some students realize over time that buying textbooks is unnecessary. Open-note exams allow students to use the resources they have purchased.

The open-note approach can also prepare students for their future in the workforce. In a typical work environment, people usually have access to the resources they need to succeed. Open notes should take the stress of cramming for exams out of the equation because resources are available in the real world.

Open-note exams have many advantages, but also some disadvantages. First, it takes time to look at the notes. Students may have to rely solely on their notes, which results in writing down every little detail, which backfires in the long run, as checking lots of notes consumes valuable test time.

Also, close-note exams are better for some students as they get further along in their collegiate experience. For example, students studying medicine can benefit from memorizing important information as they deal with people’s livelihoods.

Texas State has a strict honor code that all students follow. The rule is that plagiarism and falsified data will not be tolerated. Although the Honor Code does not specifically mention open-note exams, it is essential to follow proper procedures to avoid crossing a line. Some examples may plagiarize information from other sources or use unauthorized forms of notation. According to the Texas State website, violating the Honor Code can result in actions ranging from acquittal to expulsion.

Open-note exams are a great tool for college classrooms because they allow students to shine and demonstrate how well they can apply their knowledge. Professors should consider easing some of the pressure by allowing open-note exams.

– Rian Davis is a journalism freshman

Welcome to the University Star Letters to the Editor from its readers. All submissions are reviewed and considered for publication by the Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Editor. Not all letters are guaranteed publication.


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