Multiple choice is not a dumb option

23rd June 2006 at 01:00
Examining using multiple-choice tests does not necessarily lead to the dumbing down implied by your article. I do not understand what all the fuss is about. With the AQA exam board double award science spec A (Modular), 30 per cent of marks are for multiple-choice tests and this will rise to 37.5 per cent in the revised specification. My experience has been that the marks from the six module tests correlate well with the final written paper.

Multiple-choice tests can be designed to be as challenging as you like.

While they should not be used to the exclusion of other assessment instruments, and are less suitable for subjects such as history, where students need to interpret sources and marshal ideas in support of an argument, they are good at testing wide knowledge and simple problem-solving.

They are also quick and easy to mark and cure half of the encoding-decoding problem discussed by Professor Zapp, a character in David Lodge's Small World. Though students still need to decode the meaning of questions, they no longer need to encode an answer and so are not unfairly penalised for poor written communication skills.

Mike Follows


West Midlands

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