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Multiple Choice Test

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Jay Parkes
Educational Psychology Program
University of New Mexico

Jay Parkes

Why Use a Multiple Choice Test?

Multiple choice testing is an efficient and effective way to assess a wide range of knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities (Haladyna, 1999). When done well, it allows broad and even deep coverage of content in a relatively efficient way. Though often maligned, and though it is true that no single format should be used exclusively for assessment (American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education , 1999), multiple choice testing still remains one of the most commonly used assessment formats (Haladyna, 1999; McDougall, 1997).

What is a Multiple Choice Test?

The multiple-choice test is a very flexible assessment format that can be used to measure knowledge, skills, abilities, values, thinking skills, etc. Such a test usually consists of a number of items that pose a question to which students must select an answer from among a number of choices. Items can also be statements to which students must find the best completion. Multiple-choice items, therefore, are fundamentally recognition tasks, where students must identify the correct response.


Instructor Preparation Time: Medium to high if you are writing your own items the first time; low if you have validated items.
Preparing Your Students: Little or none. Especially in introductory classes, it might be wise not to assume that students know strategies for taking multiple-choice tests. Some time spent on test taking strategies may be useful.
Class Time: Depends on the length of the test.
Disciplines: Any.
Class Size: Any. Especially efficient in large classes.
Special Classroom/Technical Requirements: None. An optical scanner and scan sheets may be useful with large classes.
Individual or Group Involvement: Usually individual; team testing is possible.
Analyzing Results: For grading purposes, analysis is usually quick and straightforward. For developing and refining items or for diagnostic purposes, analysis can be a little more complex.
Other Things to Consider: Logistical concerns such as your students using scanning sheets correctly.

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