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Student Testing: My Thoughts as a Future Teacher

Posted in: About Me
by Richard Luczak on January 22, 2016

Multiple choice and true/false tests are not true measures of a student’s intelligence or academic ability. Both tests rely on memorization, and not the internalization of a concept. In many instances, when students don’t know the correct answer with certainty, it becomes “multiple guess.” For example, a student may say to himself/herself, “Well I haven’t had a “C” in a while, this looks good.”

Essays are a more accurate measure of a student’s knowledge than multiple choice. With essays, students can incorporate what they have learned. They can earn partial credit by writing down the facts that they know, while on multiple choice, if the incorrect answer is selected, full credit is lost.

On the flip side, some students cannot organize their thoughts into one, cohesive response. Each student handles writing and idea organization differently, and some cannot handle the pressure. In addition, essay scores are very subjective.

Another method, known as “extended response,” gives students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned. While students may not know something specific, they can describe everything about it and earn credit by knowing that information. The negative side of extended response questions is similar to essays, in that students need to be able to organize their thoughts and produce a single, cohesive response.

Projects and presentations seem to be gaining momentum as a method of evaluation. Students may exhibit their creative side to demonstrate what they have learned. Students may work in groups to draw on the strengths of various students. Projects promote cooperation, responsibility, initiative, and creativity.

On the other hand, not all students are good public speakers or work well in a group. Some students work better individually, and not all are comfortable showing their creative side.

Another method teachers commonly use to test students is the infamous fill-in-the-blank, sometimes with or without a word bank. While this method may prove beneficial when testing specific vocabulary, it has its negatives as well. It is possible (without a word bank) that many different words make sense in context. However, the teacher only accepts one answer – the student is at a clear disadvantage. He/she may not know what specific term/word the teacher is looking for. It is clearly ambiguous and biased.           

Multiple choice is efficient for teachers in many ways. It allows the instructor to ask many questions in a short period of time. They are easy to grade – especially with the Scantron machine! Teachers can test a wider range of the curriculum (Burton). Unfortunately, the odds of guessing a correct answer on multiple choice questions (“multiple guess”) is either 20 or 25 percent, depending on if you have four or five answer choices.

Creating one good multiple choice test question is a challenge (Burton). With that being said, creating an entire test of multiple choice questions is extremely difficult (Burton). Bias and subjectivity are removed in this type of assessment, but so are student creativity and the application of knowledge.

In general, multiple choice tests facts – it doesn’t focus on meaningful learning. Unfortunately, many multiple choice questions are worded ambiguously (Cengage Learning). Then comes the argument of which is the “good” answer and which is the “best” answer. That, I firmly believe, is not determinable by any one person. Each of us has a different perspective and can see things differently. For example, if two different people looked at a picture and were asked, “What is the theme of this picture”? Both people would respond differently.

The “good” versus “best” argument can be seen in any multiple choice test, especially in high school, college, and standardized testing, such as the SAT and the ACT. Tests like multiple choice examinations provide no evidence of what the student can do with the knowledge; it proves students can memorize and “spit back” the information like a robot.

The reality is that many students “cram” for exams and can “ace” the test, but not understand or be able to apply anything that they have learned. Some students would not be able to tell you what they were just tested on – they took the test and it’s gone. Cramming has never been a good way to study just as “drill and kill” is not a good way of teaching. While multiple choice assessments have their benefits, to rely solely on them as a measure of a student’s knowledge is a disservice.

Works Cited

  • Burton, Steven J., Richard R. Sudweeks, Paul F. Merrill, and Bud Wood. "How to Better Prepare Multiple-choice Test Items Guidelines for University Faculty." N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.
  • "Teaching Concepts: Assessment." Teaching Concepts: Assessment, Cengage Learning. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.