Open-book vs. closed-book examinations in higher education during COVID-19: The case of the Faculty of Arts, University of Colombo

T. A. M. Pushpakumara


The COVID-19 pandemic has made a significant impact on the education sector in Sri Lanka. During the pandemic, Sri Lankan universities resorted to online platforms to continue teaching. Undergraduates had online lectures and sat online open-book examinations. The Faculty of Arts (FoA), University of Colombo conducted the final examination of semester I as an onsite closed-book examination and the final examination of semester II as an online open-book examination for the first-year undergraduates in the academic year 2020/2021. The objective of this study is to identify the impact of the mode of examination on the performance of the first-year undergraduates at the FoA. The study is based on both primary and secondary data. Secondary data were collected from three departments of the FoA selected randomly. Primary data were collected from the selected undergraduates through a telephone survey. Paired sample T test is applied as the main analytical tool of this study. The findings show that the average mark of the onsite examination is significantly higher than the average mark of the online examination. According to the undergraduates’ opinions, the main reason for the low performance at the online examination was the teaching-learning environment they had during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: Online teaching, Online examination, Open-book examination, Onsite examination, Performance.