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Open Book Vs. Closed Book Testing: An Experimental Comparison

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.929.1 - 15.929.11



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Paper Authors


Leticia Anaya University of North Texas

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Leticia Anaya, M.S. is a Lecturer in the Department of Engineering Technology at the University of North Texas College of Engineering. She is currently working in her PhD in Management Science at the University of North Texas. She received her M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University. Her research and teaching interests include Thermal Sciences, Statistics, Quality Assurance, Machine Design, Simulation and Educational Teaching Methods. She has published previously in ASEE Conferences and has developed three laboratory manuals in the following areas: Thermal Sciences, Fluid Mechanics and Mechanics of Materials.

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Nicholas Evangelopoulos University of North Texas

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Nicholas Evangelopoulos, PhD is an Associate Professor of Decision Sciences at the University of North Texas and a Fellow of the Texas Center for Digital Knowledge. He received his Ph.D. in Decision Sciences from Washington State University and his M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Kansas. His research interests include Statistics and Text Mining. His publications include articles appearing in MIS Quarterly, Communications in Statistics, ASCE Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, and Computational Statistics & Data Analysis.

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Uyi Lawani University of North Texas

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Uyi Lawani, M.S. is a doctoral student in strategy in the Department of Management and also a Fellow of the Robert B. Toulouse School of Graduate Studies at the University of North Texas. While his doctoral minor work was in Economics, he has a B.S. degree in Microbiology and received his MBA in Finance from East Carolina University. His research interests include Organizational governance structures: mergers; acquisitions; and alliances. His solo authored refereed paper has been published in the proceedings of the Decision Science Institut Department of Management.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Open-Book vs. Closed-Book Testing: an Experimental Comparison


This research adds to the ongoing dispute on what is the better method of assessing college students during examinations: open- book or closed- book. The open book assessment method is considered by many to be a realistic method that resembles the actual professional setting of demonstrating acquired knowledge in the field. On the other hand, the closed book assessment method has been used for centuries in traditional institutions as a rigorous method for knowledge assessment. In this research, engineering and business students from a large university in the southwestern United States participated in an experimental comparison designed to determine whether open-book or closed-book is the better approach to access academic knowledge during examinations. The Latin Square experimental design was used to block the variation due to the order in which students received the open-book and closed book treatments, as well as differences in material content tested on the exam. The research study produced mixed results for engineering students that were tested in three different classes: Statics, Mechanics of Materials and Quality Assurance. After adjusting for material content and treatment order differences, in two out of the three classes, the engineering students attained higher scores, a possible indication of achieving a higher learning level, when they were tested in the closed book approach. For the business side, the results indicate that the students attained higher scores, indicating a possible higher learning level, using the open book approach. The implications for this research can be extended to today’s online testing and certification environments, which are typically “open-book”. The open-book nature of online testing is viewed by some as a necessary evil that poses a validity threat, and by others as a simulation of the professional environment. As a direction for future research, this study could be followed up with future experiments that will attempt to reproduce the results in an online environment.


The traditional invigilated closed book approach for testing has been used for generations in various institutions of higher learning. But with the advent of modern technology, the open book format for testing is becoming more common. Controversy exists as to what is the best method of assessing academic learning and performance between these two approaches of testing. Each method has its critics and its supporters. Although the closed book invigilated style is the traditional format that has existed for generations, it is not necessarily problem-free. The main arguments against the closed book format is that this format is irrelevant to real life professional practice, it encourages recall type learning rather than application focused learning, it encourages cheating and it is more costly to administer1. Before presenting our research study in detail, these four arguments are first examined here.

The first argument is that the traditional invigilated closed book format is considered to be unrealistic from actual professional practice. In the engineering field, practicing engineers tend to rely on manuals, technical books, Internet and any other extraneous source to be able to solve real life engineering complex problems. Shine and his associates in their article “In Defense of Open-Book Engineering Degree Examinations” defended the open-book engineering testing

Anaya, L., & Evangelopoulos, N., & Lawani, U. (2010, June), Open Book Vs. Closed Book Testing: An Experimental Comparison Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16901

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