An educational evaluation of learner experiences in dentistry open-book examinations

Manas Dave, Carly Dixon, Neil Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in substantial global disruptions, with many universities restructuring their examinations to open-book assessments. In this format, learners are allowed to use revision notes, textbooks and other permitted material during their examination. Traditionally, dentistry is assessed using closed-book examinations where the use of such materials is prohibited. Learners will have limited or no prior experience of open-book examinations in dentistry, hence this educational evaluation aimed to explore their experiences and assess suitability for continuity of this examination. Methods A retrospective anonymous survey was conducted on all undergraduate dentistry and oral health sciences learners on completion of their examination and once they received their results. The questionnaire was designed to contain both qualitative and quantitative data items, validated through previous published studies. All authors independently analysed the data through tallying quantitative parameters and thematically analysing qualitative free text. Results In total, 210 learners participated in the survey, with 52.4% strongly agreeing a preference for open-book examinations. In addition, 42.9% of learners either agreed or strongly agreed that less preparation was required for open-book examinations; however, 80.5% reported learning new information. Furthermore, 85.2% disagreed or strongly disagreed that open-book examinations were stressful. Thematic analysis highlighted four core themes: stress, memorisation of facts, motivation to learn and unfairness. Conclusions There were several learning points for both educators and learners that can be actioned for future open-book examinations, including tailoring exam questions to foster application of knowledge rather than resource-searching skills, intended learning objective mapping against curriculum requirements and learner preparation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-248
Number of pages6
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2021


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