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Using Open Book Tests in The EFL and ESL Classroom

Paul has spent many years teaching English as a foreign and second language. He has taught EFL in Taiwan and Thailand, and ESL in the U.S.

An Open Book Bible


Open Book Tests

How do you motivate students to take notes and do their homework and in-class assignments? Give them open book tests or quizzes. I have recently utilized this strategy with good results in my 5th and 6th grade EFL classes. All of my students have now started to bring their books to class every day, and they are paying more attention to me in class. In this article, I will state my case for open book tests in the middle school classroom.

Reasons for Using Open Book Tests

Open book tests or quizzes should not be used all of the time; however, they are useful to give on occasions for the following reasons:

1. Make Students Responsible for Bringing Textbooks And Notebooks to Class

How many times have you seen students show up to class with no textbook, a reading book, a workbook, or a notebook? If you are like me, it has probably been too many times! When asking where their books are, most students will say, "My book is at home because I forgot it." What happens then is that the students don't participate in the lesson unless the teacher makes them sit next to their classmates and share textbooks. Without any notebook or workbook, the students cannot do any in-class exercises unless they copy everything from the book onto a piece of paper. Most kids are too lazy to do this. Now, when I inform the class that they may use their books, workbooks, and notebooks during the test, almost all of the students will bring their materials, especially when I prohibit them from borrowing any of their classmates' materials.

2. Persuade Students To Take Notes in Class

I write a lot on the whiteboard to reinforce and supplement what is in the students' textbooks and workbooks. Many of my students are not that anxious to take notes or copy what I have written on the board. On numerous occasions, I have to tell them two or three times to get out their notebooks and take notes. In the past, some students would not take notes unless I stood over them. For most students, this was due to laziness and not wanting to do anything active in class. When I give open book tests or quizzes now, I include a lot of questions that are taken directly from my notes on the whiteboard. If the students have not copied what I have written on the board, they are not able to answer my test questions correctly. For this reason, I have now happily noticed that when I write things on the board, students are diligently taking notes.

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3. Make Kids See The Importance of Doing Homework and In-Class Exercises

Let's face it: most kids don't like to do homework or in-class exercises. If they had their way, they would prefer to sit passively and be entertained by the teacher. Homework and in-class exercises are necessary; however, practice does make perfect. For example, any good basketball shooter has practiced making shots with the correct technique thousands of times. When I give my open book tests, I include many questions directly from the students' assigned homework and in-class exercises. If the students have not done their homework or had it checked by the teacher, they will have a very hard time with my open book test. Since giving open book tests, most students are now doing all of their assigned homework and having it checked.

4. Measures How Well Students Can Read And Process Comprehension Questions

Before giving open book tests, I did not have enough time in my classroom to accurately measure the individual reading comprehension of almost 30 students. If students have not already read an article and are familiar with it, the open book test will accurately measure their reading comprehension in answering knowledge, inference, application, and value judgment questions. It will also persuade the students to make things easier on themselves by reading articles in advance before taking an open book test.

Up until three years of teaching, I had never given any open book tests. Class surveys have shown that most of my students are in favor of future open book tests and that many feel this type of test is harder than a closed book test. Yes, it is harder because students are now being held accountable for taking class notes and doing their homework.

Benefits of Open Book Tests in the Classroom

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Using Open Book Tests

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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