The Diploma Programme (DP) Open Book Exam (OBE) pilots are an initiative to explore how offering a specific type of OBE can benefit students and the school community as a whole.
What is an Open Book Exam (OBE)?
An OBE is a situation where students use permitted resources to complete an assessment, such as:
- Data or formula booklet
- School textbook or dictionary
- Book (e.g. a literary or philosophical work)
- Approved summaries
- Student notes
What are the benefits of OBEs?
When students sit an OBE, they can focus more on demonstrating problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They are less likely to make unnecessary mistakes in for example names, definitions and supporting quotes. OBE questions can be more analytical in nature and focus more on applying knowledge.
Pilot subjects and OBEs
The IB Education Office is setting up a series of pilots for three different types of OBE for the following DP subjects and components:
English A Literature,
Paper 2: allowing three highlighted copies of literary works during the exam
Paper 1: allowing student-created summaries of real-world examples during the exam
Paper 1: allowing teacher-created summaries of psychological studies during the exam
Within this suite of pilots, IB will be looking at the impact of offering different types of OBEs on the whole school community. To evaluate the impact of offering OBE for one exam component in each of the pilot subjects, we require two groups of schools:
- a pilot group
- a control group
The cooperation of both groups is essential to the research study.
Who will sit the exams in OBE format
Only those students registered by a pilot school for a specific subject and exam will sit that exam in OBE format. All other students will sit the exam as indicated in the current guide.
When a school is registered as a pilot school:
- all teachers teaching the pilot course will prepare their students for the OBE format exam
- all candidates enrolled for the pilot subject and pilot OBE exam will sit the exam in the OBE format.
In the control group schools and in all schools not participating in the study:
- teachers will prepare their students for the exams as indicated in the current subject guide namely in the Closed Book Exam (CBE) format
- all candidates enrolled for the exams as indicated in the current guide will sit the exam in the CBE format.
OBEs and grade awarding
All candidates will sit the same exam paper, with candidates in pilot schools completing the exam using specifically allowed resources. IB examiners will mark the candidate work of students sitting the pilot OBE exams to the same standard as all other student work. The component that is sat as an OBE will be reviewed separately for grade awarding by IB examiners and assessment staff. In this way, the IB will ensure that the different exam formats will not disadvantage candidates, teachers or schools in any way.
Results for candidates taking part in the OBE pilot study will be issued in the same way and at the same time as for all other candidates.
What does it mean to be a pilot or control group school?
As stated above, the study requires two groups of schools: a group of pilot schools and control group schools. Data from both groups of schools is crucial to the quality of the research outcomes and the formulation of guidance regarding OBE in the future. Students, teachers and coordinators of both pilot schools and control group schools will be asked to complete a series of surveys and may be invited to contribute to a limited number of other data collection activities throughout the duration of the pilot study.
Pilot schools will be offering at least one OBE in the sessions from November 2023 through to May 2025, depending on the pilot subject(s) they offer. Once formally registered, pilot schools and teachers will receive support materials specific to their OBE type. Coordinators, teachers and students taking part in the study are required to complete a series of surveys at different times over the course of the pilot study.
By answering these surveys, pilot schools, their teachers and students enable the research team to understand the impact of offering one OBE per pilot subject on:
- student learning
- the classroom and exam experience of both students and teachers
- what it means for the school as a community.
Control group schools will offer the current course and exams in the format as determined in the current subject guide. By participating in this study, control group school coordinators, teachers and students will be filling in a similar series of surveys through which they provide essential data on how the subjects are taught when all the exams are offered as defined in the course.
In addition to the surveys, coordinators, teachers and students can volunteer to be invited to participate in a limited number of more interactive data collection, such as focus groups.
Comparing the feedback and responses from pilot and control group schools will enable us to identify what happens – and how IB could support schools, teachers and students – should IB schools offer new OBEs in the future.
Areas of interest
While the specific focus of the comparison will differ somewhat depending on the type of OBE that is piloted in a school, the shared areas of interest across all pilots will be:
- student experiences of learning and exam preparation for the subject and the exam in the pilot in both formats, and how these affect their feelings of engagement and well-being
- teacher experiences of the teaching and exam preparation for the subject (for example benefits and drawbacks, opportunities and obstacles they encounter)
- school experienced impact on school policies, practices and resources.
13 June 2022
First call to DP schools offering any of the DP subjects in the current pilot to register their interest
|1 August 2022||Deadline for DP schools to register their interest in participating|
|October 2022||Selected schools with November sessions confirm participation|
|January 2023||First teaching pilot subjects to all candidates expecting to sit exam in November 2023 or November 2024|
|February 2023||Selected schools with a May session confirm participation|
|March 2023||Baseline survey in schools with November exams|
|September 2023||First teaching pilot subjects to all candidates expecting to sit exam in May 2024 or May 2025|
Baseline survey for the May 2024 exam session
Pre-exam survey for the November 2023 session
Post-exam survey for the November 2024 exam session
|January 2024||Issue of Results for all candidates in the November 2023 session|
|April 2024||Pre-exam survey for the May 2024 session|
|May 2024||Post-exam survey for the May 2024 session|
|July 2024||Issue of results|
|October 2024||Pre-exam survey for the November 2024 exam session|
|November 2024||Post-exam survey for the November 2024 exam session|
|January 2025||Issue of Results for all candidates in the November 2024 session|
|April 2025||Pre-exam survey for the May 2025 session|
Last OBE resit opportunity for November 2024 exam candidates
Post-exam survey for the May 2025 session
|July 2025||Issue of Results for all candidates in the May 2025 session|
|November 2025||Last OBE resit opportunity for May 2025 exam candidates|
Teacher support material
Before the study starts, all schools selected for and registered as a pilot school will receive a guidance document outlining the details of the OBE condition for their subject. This will include details on what the permitted resource students will have access to will look like, including illustrations and templates where relevant. Teachers will not receive extensive training on how to prepare students for OBE at this time, but the IB will provide recommendations on what skills they may consider training their students in.
The following things apply to all pilot subjects:
- students should keep in mind that they will not be given more time in the OBE exam to compensate for the time it may take for them to navigate their respective resources
- usual plagiarism rules and standards apply to the resources
- definitions and explanations of theories, concepts and ideas taught in the course, that students should know, will not be allowed in any of the resources for this pilot
- all the specified resources will be open to changes to support the needs of students who require inclusive access arrangements to be made.
Read more about OBEs in our research study “What is good practice for Open Book Assessment?”.
Each OBE pilot allows for a different type of resource as described briefly below. More detailed information on the resource allowed is provided to schools that take part in the OBE pilots study by signing the Memorandum of Collaboration. It is extremely important that students taking the exam in OBE format are made aware of what is allowed and what is not. Any unauthorized material found in a text or other resource used during the exam will be treated as academic malpractice.
Economics paper 1
For this pilot students will be given the opportunity to create their own booklet to access during their exam. The booklet can be considered a collection of summarizations of several real-world examples that show how the theories and concepts taught during the course are applied in the real world. The booklet is intended to relieve students of the need to recall the specific details of the real-world examples, so that they can apply that knowledge into the exam. The booklets will only be allowed to include the details specified in the guidance. Prior to the study the students will receive a template they should follow.
Students will be allowed up to two A4 pages of handwritten text or 1200 words, if typed. They will be allowed up to 60 words to summarize each real-world example, and they may choose to summarize their examples using mind-maps as well, again with a 2 A4 page limit. It will also be allowed for students to use both formats, for example written summaries on one side of the page and a mind-map on the other. However, in both formats the requirements are the same. Students can only use descriptive statements of fact about the real-world examples, they will not be allowed to include definitions, explanations of concepts or theories, analysis, or evaluation anywhere in their booklet. Additionally, they won’t be allowed to use visuals, such as tables and diagrams, nor will they be allowed to underline, bold, or italicize elements of their summaries.
Language A literature paper 2
For this pilot students will be given the opportunity to bring copies of three highlighted literary works, studied during the course, into the exam. Students will be allowed to use underlining, highlighting and post-it notes in the same copy of the works to make it easier for them to navigate to the essential elements of each work. Students may include assorted colours of highlight and varied sizes, colours and shapes of post-it notes. They will be allowed to include as many post-its and highlights as they want, but they will not be allowed to include any form of written words or symbols anywhere in their copy of the literature, this includes a key to support them. The intention of bringing in highlighted and/or underlined, and/or post-it noted copies is that students can navigate to the evidence they need to write an effective response during the exam, relieving them of the need to recall specific details of the work.
Some schools use digital copies of literary works during the course. However, digital devices are not normally allowed in the exam, therefore exam candidates will need to use a (printed) hard copy. The editions of the texts they may bring may not include any other critical commentary, explanatory guidance, or alternative version of the text which may support understanding, nor are bi-lingual editions allowed. Further guidance on what editions of the literary works will not be allowed – including how to deal with digital copies and annotations – will be provided in the guidance document sent to pilot schools.
Psychology paper 1
For this pilot students will be given the opportunity to have access to a teacher-generated booklet with summarizations and key details of psychological studies that have been used as examples during DP psychology for this cohort. The booklet is intended to relieve students of needing to recall the specific details of the studies so that they can apply that knowledge to the exam. In the guidance document teachers will be provided with a templated structure the booklet should follow. Students will be allowed to take in a clean copy of the booklet into the exam.
The teacher-generated booklet will include key details of psychological studies that have been used as examples during DP psychology for this cohort. In the guidance document teachers will be provided with a templated structure that the booklet should follow. It will allow space for the inclusion of the names of the key researcher, publication dates, the topic area, the study aim and study findings for each of studies. The list of study summarizations will be organized according to the three approaches taught during the course (Biological, Cognitive and Sociocultural). The booklets will not be allowed to be more than two typed A4 pages or 1200 words (single-spaced, 11 font size, one consistent font). For each study summary, teachers will be allowed two lines of text and a word limit of 30 words. None of the elements in the booklets will be allowed to be bolded, underlined, made an assorted colour or made a different font, and no visuals will be allowed. Students will be allowed to take in a clean copy of the booklet into the exam.