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I can easily understand the advantage of multiple-choice questions for instance in grading and so. A drawback is that real life problem don't have multiple choice questions all the time for instance calculating a load or a balance of a real thing. Can you comment about the advantages and/or disadvantages with multiple-choice questions in education?

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closed as not constructive by Jim, Aang, Hagen von Eitzen, Norbert, Henry T. Horton Mar 6 '13 at 17:48

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(a) Too easy to "game;" (b) Tricking students becomes too tempting; (c) Often zero credit even if only insignificant error was made; (d) It is exceedingly difficult to produce a good multiple choice question. –  André Nicolas Mar 6 '13 at 17:24
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In the case of a series evaluation or an indefinite integral for example, multiple choice questions turn the question into one of checking all the options. In any case multiple choice only values the final answer and not the reasoning behind it. –  Ishan Banerjee Mar 6 '13 at 17:29
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@AndréNicolas, forgot (e) all of the above ;-) –  vonbrand Mar 6 '13 at 17:31
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2 Answers 2

For math exams, multiple choice is a very bad idea.

Let's start with the fact that it is difficult if not impossible to check proofs using multiple choice answers. Even if you only want "technical" questions for say, a math course for engineers, you still run the risk of student's guessing their way through the exam, and alternatively, good students making small calculation errors, and thus getting bad marks that don't reflect their true ability.

The only thing multiple choice is good for, is lazy instructors.

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I'll second that sentiment. The only benefit I see from multiple choice tests is to the instuctor. They take less time to grade, and require no thought to grade. The final grade obtained is indisputable, the student got so many correct. However, as some responders have pointed out, such tests give almost no indication of actual student knowledge, in the sense of depth of understanding of the concepts involved. In my experience, students seem to prefer them because of the standardized tests they took in high school, for which they were coached to check all answers if they weren't sure. –  Chris Leary Mar 6 '13 at 17:37
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They are easier to grade, but much harder to design right. –  vonbrand Mar 6 '13 at 17:49
    
@vonbrand - I'd argue that you can't really design them right either, at least not more "right" than open questions. –  nbubis Mar 6 '13 at 17:50
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I can give several...

  • It checks just the final result, not how the vict^Wstudent came to it. They could just have guessed, or arrived at the right result by some hair-raising incorrect method.
  • Can't really check grasp of concepts, just results of some computation
  • Many "real world" situations just haven't got right/wrong answers, you want to evaluate if they make (and are able to defend) reasonable assumptions, and work from them. The final answer does then depend on what is assumed...

I'd use multiple choice to check for relatively shallow understanding, and complement with other type of evaluation to dig deeper.

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You’d be surprised how much grasp of concepts can be tested with sufficiently well-designed multiple-choice questions if the format permits multiple correct answers. However, it’s very difficult to produce such questions, and I still consider them inferior to more open-ended types and won’t use them for anything. –  Brian M. Scott Mar 6 '13 at 17:45
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