Open book exam for Med students?

By: Tonya Mead, CFE, PI, MBA, MA Educational Psychology

Today, a university in India was forced to clarify photos posted to social media showing Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) students taking an open book assessment. The photos appeared to demonstrate test security flaws and cheating.  However,  there are much broader implications.

As a background, after obtaining a MBBS degree, students can become eligible to practice medicine in India. Dr. Khan, of the Government Medical College in Sprinagar explained that the purpose of the assessment was to assess  “higher order thinking skills’ (HOTS) which is based on analytic skills and comprehensibility of examinees rather than testing their memory strength through a rote-based conventional methodology” [line 7].

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Dr. Khan may have made the wrong inferences of a pilot study undertaken by American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) to test the validity of using an open book exam for the maintenance of certification program (MOC). Practicing physicians must complete continuing education activities every 2 and 5 years. At the 10th year, they must take a re-certification exam.   However, to obtain an initial license, applicants must pass one or more of the following closed book exams: NME, USMLE, FLEX or other (as requirements vary by state).

More than 25% of practicing physicians (1/5 of nurses and home health aides, 1/6 dentists and pharmacists) in the US are foreign born and may have been trained abroad. For these reasons, the situation in Sprinagar deserves more than a passing glance.

Tonya J. Mead, CFE, PI, MBA, MA, Certified K-12 Administrator and School Psychologist is author of Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer and president of Shared Knowledge, LLC