Assessment: Open-book Examination (OBE)
This is going to be a challenge for lecturers. It is not easy to set open-book examinations—you can’t just ask simple questions which require bits of knowledge.
—Professor Lim Pin, former NUS Vice-Chancellor (1981–2000)4

Increasingly, OBEs are perceived to be effective in achieving the aims and objectives of our educational agenda at NUS. OBEs have been in use at NUS for some years and, in recent years, there has been a significant increase in their adoption, with some faculties having already met the projection that OBEs will constitute about a third of all examinations at the University. Generally, they tend to be used more frequently in the upper levels rather than at the first year, as might be expected in view of their more demanding nature. Feedback obtained from staff and students is largely positive.

In considering this form of assessment, it may be useful to revisit some of the fundamentals, and their implications for teaching, training and testing students. To reiterate the obvious, there are arguments for and against the various types of assessments, including OBEs, and these are complicated by differences in context and discipline. The University’s directive is that faculties should evolve their own blueprints for implementation at department level.


  1. The Sunday Times 9 March 1997.