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Oxford University students allowed to take open book exams due to ‘lack of practice’

English faculty said that while they could have returned to in-person exams, 'a fair mode of assessment' would be to run exams online

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Oxford University students will be allowed to take open book English exams next year due to a “lack of practice”.

The university has announced that all-but-one of the 2022 English finals will be open book and completed at home, meaning that students will not be required to wear gowns, learn quotes and can have their books next to them. 

Only one exam on Old Norse, Medieval Welsh and Old Irish will be held in-person by the handful of students who selected to study it. 

In the eight-hour open book exam, students will be required to write up to 1,500 words – a reduction from last year’s 2,000 word count – after students found it “too much under timed conditions”.

Online exams a ‘fair mode of assessment’

In an email to students, the English faculty said that while they could have returned to three-hour, closed book, in-person exams, “a fair mode of assessment” would be to run the exams online. 

Concerns about whether social distancing restrictions could be reimposed next year was one factor in retaining the online model, the email said. 

“The decision to retain online exams was not taken lightly,” the course administrators said, acknowledging that some students would not be pleased with the decision. 

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