Why Multiple-Choice Tests are Stupid.

Every student knows the feeling they get when he or she has to complete a multiple-choice test.  The thought of staring at millions of bubbles, empty and blank, just waiting to be filled, is scary for anyone.  Is the answer A?  Is it B?  Or what if the multiple-choice test is one of those ones where you have to fill in TWO bubbles for one answer, like A and B?  Then the tears just won’t stop cascading down the face.

These multiple-choice tests are stupid.  Why?  They do not accurate test the knowledge of the students, as multiple-choice test are supposed to do.  Many times, a question can be solved simply with process-of-elimination.  This does not confirm that the student knows the correct answer.  It just means their logical reasoning skills are adequate enough to guess which answers are wrong.  Essay tests, or at the bare minimum, short answer tests, on the other hand, eliminate the ability to use process-of-elimination to earn more points.

So, then, what is the value of these multiple-choice tests?  If not for the sake of testing students’ knowledge, multiple-choice test are at least somewhat valuable in that they are cheap to make and easy to grade.  In today’s world, money is everything, right?  The thing is, though, is that there is a bigger flaw with multiple-choice tests than their reliance on process-of-elimination – tone.  Tone is the issue with these tests.  The Washington Post recently described why this is an issue.  According to the writers there, students are often confused by the logistics of an assignment, completely apart from the knowledge required to complete the assignment.  And this makes sense when talking about multiple-choice tests.  To anyone who has taken one, think.  How many questions did you miss not because of your lack of knowledge, but rather your confusion at an “EXCEPT” question, or a “NOT” question, or a question that was worded like “MOST accurately” or “BEST describes”?  One could certainly argue that these types of questions are so poorly worded that students trip up on the wording, rather than the information.  Also, these types of questions encourage tricks, according to the Washington Post.  Is that to what the values of these tests amount?  Learning tricks?  That’s stuff for dogs, not test-takers.

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