The Frustration of Multiple-Choice Tests

In most university psychology classes the test of choice is the multiple-choice exam. It’s easy to mark, scantrons are a wonderful invention, it can cover a wide variety of concepts and you can create multiple versions to decrease cheating. But do the benefits outweigh the problems with the medium? To a student multiple-choice exams can be doable or groan worthy.

From personal experience I can relate how incensed I get when the questions ask about the name or date of something instead of the concept that goes with that name or date. Truthfully when studying I probably glanced at the name and the date was mostly likely ignored entirely, it’s the concept, you know the thing we spend all class time on, which I endeavoured to understand! To be fair to the professors a good multiple-choice question can be hard to write so sometimes your left with, “what was to name of the person who can up with this concept?” Students writing their own practice questions know how hard it is to come up with deep questions that test knowledge. But I’ve had some multiple-choice test that had me tearing my hair out and wishing for a short/long answer question so that I can showcase the extent of my knowledge (and maybe hide what I don’t know behind big words). And how useful is a multiple-choice test for predicting a student’s level and depth of knowledge?

Memorization is a skill all university students know is the key to most multiple-choice exams but deep understanding of a concept is most often than not, not tested on a multiple-choice exam. How valid are MC exams anyway? A score on one MC exam may predict the score on another MC exam but I have doubts about the predictability of an MC exam score on another type of test (written, verbal, etc.).


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