Do you prefer multiple choice or essay tests? | Yahoo …

Finally, multiple choice items lend themselves to statistical analysis for evaluation and improvement purposes. Measurement and evaluation centers can assess the effectiveness of test items or provide instructors with information for completing their own. Although comparative analyses can be done on essay items, the procedures must be done by hand and are far less reliable.

The following shows a better method for constructing multiple choice tests:

I run a maths course with nearly 300 students. The students enter their answers on a web site which will accept arbitrary mathematical expressions. The answers are checked automatically by code written in Maple, which can do a lot of symbolic mathematics. Many questions are set up to provide feedback depending on fine details of the student’s answer. This took a lot of work to set up, of course, but now it works automatically with no effort, and it is much better than multiple choice. One could do the same for any kind of test where the answers are mathematical expressions. It would be harder for non-mathematical subjects, of course, but I still think that there is potential for much more intelligent computer based assessment.


CollegeNET Forum - Multiple Choice vs. Essay Format Exams

So which would you prefer? If you could choose, would you pick an essay or a multiple choice test?

Walstad, W.B. & W.E. Becker (1994). Achievement differences onmultiple-choice and essay tests in economics [Electronic version].Proceedings of the American Economic Association, 193-196.


This article examines the pros and cons of different test question types, including multiple-choice questions and open-ended test questions.

In general the significant statements appear to show two trends,one suggesting that students believe that multiple-choice questions areeasier and another suggesting that students feel essay questions to befairer and more valid. To further investigate this phenomenon a factoranalysis was run which resulted in two factors, the first of whichexplained 40.46% of the variance and the second of which explained20.06%. Excluding loadings between .40 and -.40, the first factor hadpositive loadings on all four statements viewing multiple-choice aseasier or similarly essays as more difficult, statements 3, 4, 5 and 9,and loaded negatively on all other statements. The second factor loadedon all three fairness-related statements. It loaded positively on (7)Multiple-choice less fair: I can't earn partial credit, and (10)Essay more fair: More accurately show what I know/don't know, andloaded negatively on (11) Essay lass fair: Content knowledge resultsbiased by writing skill. The second factor also loaded positively on (4)Multiple-choice easier: I might guess correctly even if I don'tknow. These results suggest that the ability to obtain a high score moreeasily (via multiple-choice) and the ability to receive a score thataccurately measures what the student has learned (via essay, except forstatement 4) are both valued by the students.

SparkLife » Essay vs. Multiple Choice: Battle of the Exams We decided to probe the pros and cons of the two main test types: multiple choice and essay.

You’re not going to be able to test all types of knowledge with multiple choice tests — though I believe that, with well-written questions, you can do more than you might think. The type of test that you use will depend on what you want the test to be able to do — if you want a performance test for writing, multiple choice is worthless. Testing the ability of students to solve complex problems, giving partial credit for a nearly correct solution, would be pretty challenging to do using multiple choice. But if you want to find out if students have learned a specific body of factual information, they can work very well.My problem with multiple choice exams is that they are generally very easy to game. I can usually eliminate two four choices on a question I don’t know the answer to just based on the reasonableness of the wrong answers. Most teachers aren’t good at coming up with believable wrong answers, and always include obviously wrong answers. This created the structural “process of elimination” advantage for the student. The hardest multiple choice test I ever took was one for a Westinghouse Scholarship. The reason was they had eliminated that structural advantage: Every question could have any number of correct answers, including zero.