A very good student who took my class last semester said that the homework and exams were a nightmare for her. Throughout the semester, she kept on saying “Ask me anything but don’t make me comment about myself.” She wasn’t alone. Open book exams that relied on interpretation rather than information were instances where the students had to reveal themselves rather than pass by showing their grasp of the subject. They focused on finding the right answer. If a homework asked questions like “What would you do?”, that was clearly accepted as personal development, which obviously ranked much lower than information in terms of importance.

When I was in high school and university, I thought that the the most fun exams that showed respect for the students was not the classic tests but open book exams that asked the students’ opinions and ideas. It’s been nearly 15 years since then and I feel it to be unfair to give any other type of exam to any student over 18. However, such exams create panic and anxiety for students. Most of them fear expressing their opinions and beliefs. Because what if they are wrong?

Seth Godin says “All exams in life are open book.” We may not be students any longer but don’t we feel a similar sense of fear and panic? Sometimes we find ourselves on slippery grounds where no definite answer exists and we have to make our way as we go. What if we say something wrong? What if we are flawed? What if we are made fun of?

But let’s put all risks aside, there are only three things that we can actually improve in this life: products/services, ideas and/or ourselves. All the relationships that we build are closely related to the one we have with ourselves because it is the one that forms the foundation of all our relationships. And I wonder how that relationship is. Is it a tough exam whose answers are predetermined or is each answer open to interpretation with no absolute right or wrong?


Translated by Talya Arditi

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