This post is a part of my Personal Development Project for May 2016.
This is actually a difficult question to answer in a sharp yes or no. It depends on what kind of test is given and what the point of the test is. In this article, we’re going to talk about multiple-choice tests, fill-in-the-blank style tests, free response style tests, oral presentations, and portfolio-style projects, and see what each of these styles of testing is actually good for.
Multiple choice tests
They’re incredibly quick to grade and comparatively quick to take. Multiple choice tests make up the majority of tests that we take in formal education.
There are two main problems with multiple choice tests though. The first is that they’re easy to “crack”. You don’t have to necessarily know the answer to the question if you can recognize what isn’t the answer. The second issue is that multiple choice tests only determine whether you know a set of facts. There’s no room for interpretation or concession, all questions demand a single, clear, black and white answer.
It seems contrary to the very of purpose of education, though, that we test whether or not our students know exclusively facts. We want critical thinkers, right? We want people who ask questions and give thoughtful answers. The world is full of shades of gray that we want everyone to be able to observe and respect.
So the only thing that multiple choice tests can assess mastery of is clear, black and white facts. And yet because you can “crack” multiple choice tests, it doesn’t even do this very well.
Multiple choice tests might take a lot less time than other tests (both for the student and the teacher), but I think we can agree that they’re terrible assessments of mastery.