OBE Is The Alternative


by Nazir Ahmad Gilkar and Iqra Majeed Shah

Kashmir personifies a systemic, normalised clampdown. The shutdowns are usually a 100 to 200 days affair in a year. These shutdown and lockdowns have adversely impacted the education system. With the changing times, we too must start thinking about successful alternatives for the examination system. The headway should be from the Closed Book Examination (CBE) to Open Book Examination (OBE) which is finding a due space in a given situation.

Scores of undergraduate students on Tuesday held a protest demonstration in Pratap Park Srinagar. Kl Image by Bilal Bahadur


An OBE is one in which examinees are permitted to carry notes, textbooks or any other approved material into an exam situation. It evaluates one’s ability to find and apply knowledge and especially aimed at developing the skills of critical and creative thinking.  OBE can be held in the traditional examination hall or at home.


One may think of two kinds of OBE’s, the restricted type and the unrestricted type. The materials examinee can take into an OBE vary in quantum. In the restricted type of open book examinations, students are permitted to bring into the examination room one or more specific documents approved by the course instructor. In the unrestricted OBE, students are free to bring whatever they like. The only restriction for take-home exams is that it should be attempted by the examinee only.

Here an attempt is made to focus on take-home OBE. It is appreciable that many teaching-learning online platforms have been introduced for the students and Google Classrooms top the list.  Learning is to be evaluated for certification in due course of time.


Conventional memory testing examinations must pave way for examinations that test student’s intellectual skills. This is where OBE comes in as it is more than just rote learning.

At college and university levels memorising and repeating information is not enough to create employability. It is required to equip learners with intellectual abilities and skills. The beauty of OBE is in constructing creative, comprehensive and case-based ticklish,  brain-teasing questions in building an argument. Learning outcome-based curriculum framework (LOCF) 2018 also suggests OBE introduction. OBE helps to keep the mind healthy. It places the focus on higher-level learning because OBE does not have the same emphasis on memorization. In CBE, the student mugs the information from the textbook without understanding the same and then reproduces it into the answer sheet.


OBE abhors teaching to be the transfer of information from the library or textbooks to the student minds. Teaching ideally should equip students with the ability to acquire knowledge, to modify it on the basis of new experience, and to apply available knowledge for solving problems and make intelligent decisions.

There has been some spadework on the OBE in Kashmir. Professors, N A Nadeem, AGani and Nighat Basu had deliberations upon the subject OBE at the Central University of Kashmir. Prof Parveen A Pandit had thought of plan B in 2018 to be able to work in a world of constraints. CUK has already taken up developing faculty in 2018. During 6th Post ESE workshop, the Varsity arranged a presentation on OBE in order to sensitise its faculty.


In OBE, construction of a question involves higher-order skills. This relates to structural change from CBE. Questions generally do not start or end up with adjectives, or verbs – discuss, deliberate, explain, elaborate, explore, suggest, comment, trace out, differentiate, and define. Why and how questions are relevant. A question befitting for OBE should be conceptually sound, technically skilful and operationally practical.

No doubt, the idea of OBE will not be accepted at the first instance because change is always resisted. It may consider discipline-specific electives, generic electives, ability enhance, and skill-oriented courses leaving aside core courses (under choice based-credit system) in every programme for home take OBE. The faculty will have a rich inventory of creative, fine-tuned, well-chiselled questions.

However, the OBE suffers from some operational difficulties in a given situation, which can be managed in due course of time. Some academics opine that OBE cannot be conducted in numerical courses of study – Mathematics, Accounting and Taxation but experts differ. They can also construct questions based on OBE. The sample inventory of numerical and non-numerical questions compiled by the authors is available on demand. In business education programmes at the masters level, questions are case study based. Examinees are provided with the case study and the questions asked are not based on memorization but understanding and comprehension analysis and evaluation of an operational situation in an environment. In business programmes, the examination and evaluation is done based on closed and open book systems in 2:1 mix.

It is right that OBE can be started selectively at the beginning. The universities with a small number of students pursuing its programmes can switch over to OBE. CUK has a comparative advantage in this regard. The examination process will be completed within two days, two papers per day as per date sheet notified one week ago. The ways and means can be found out in an environment of constraints provided different minds positively work in tandem.

(Dr Gilkar is former Controller of examinations CUK. Iqra Majeed Shah is a contractual lecturer (Functional English) at HKM Degree College Bandipora.)

Note: Photographs used in this copy are merely for reasons of representation and are not directly linked to the write up


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