John Spencer wrote a post where he outlines 14 reasons why multiple choice tests suck. Consider these points:
I also wrote a post on the folly of multiple choice tests.
- Multiple choice is shallow. I know people try to create analytical, evaluative and creative questions. However, the medium itself is one of recall and recognition.
- Knowledge is often connective and deeply rooted in context. Multiple choice takes away connective thinking and puts it into empty silos, where knowledge is reduced to lowest common denominator. I want students to know information. However, I also want them to know applied information. I want them to put the information together.
- Multiple choice is unreliable. As long as a student can guess a correct answer, every question is somewhat suspect. I get it. Teachers can look for overall trends and take out the statistical probability of guessing. However, how does that help anyone figure out if a child needs additional support with a concept.
- There is rarely a chance to explain why something is true. Students should be able to articulate what they know and give a defence for why it is true.
- Multiple choice kills the desire to learn. It might not sound like a big deal, but every time my students take a test, they are less likely to enjoy what they learn.
- If you try for critical thinking, multiple choice tests become subjective. Students end up with questions like, "Which of the following best describes . . ." and the test becomes meaningless.
- Multiple choice does not allow for nuance, paradox or mystery.
- Students need to see knowledge as contextual and personal. Multiple choice tests are standardized, impersonal and void of any real context. Students internalize the idea that learning is something irrelevant.
- It reduces self-efficacy. Multiple choice tests fail to allow students to find information themselves and make decisions about their learning. To do so would make tests "unreliable." Too many variables. Unfortunately, life has multiple variables and "learn to be a critical thinking citizen" cannot be easily measured.
- Multiple choice pushes students toward a narrow, cerebral definition of learning. Multiple choice does not allow for social learning. Instead, students must prove what they know in isolation. It doesn't allow for multiple modalities or differentiation, either.
- Google has replaced multiple choice. In an era when knowledge is instantly available, we should be seeing whether students can find information, ask deep questions, engage with sources, curate what they find and find the bias in a source. Multiple choice doesn't allow for any of these necessary skills.
- It's way too easy to cheat, both for teachers and for students.
- Learning is often a creative endeavour. However, multiple choice tests do not allow students to be creative, divergent or innovative.
- Multiple choice tests are often not valid. For example, if a standard is concept standard, it often cannot be assessed in multiple options. If a standard is a process or a product, they probably should be assessed by actually doing the process and making the product. So, we're left with the assessment of skills, and only those that fit nicely into multiple options.
What do you think?