Attack of the Scantrons: just pick ‘C’

Multiple choice tests are not always the best: Cheah

Since I started studying at George Brown College (GBC), my class mates and I have had to suffer the consequences of writing tests that are a terrible representation of our actual knowledge on the subject.

“A, B, C, or D?” The question that rings through students heads like clockwork.

Multiple choice tests have taken over the grading system, breeding huge flaws in how students study for them. Not to mention, each professor has a very different approach to writing them too.

The last one I wrote went something like this: ‘If the sustainability rating of a class E building is 34 per cent, which building material should you not use to improve the rating?’

Talk about anxiety.

Other professors will give you the answer within the questions because they did not take the time to test your knowledge on the subject. What’s the point?

“Multiple choice requires recognition whereas essay and short answer require recall,” explained Connie Winder, program reviewer at GBC.

The only thing that this assesses is one’s ability to memorize, which can be easy for some.

Other students may actually prefer multiple choice on the premise that it requires less in-depth analysis and therefore, less studying.

Why does it matter if tests are too easy? It reflects the worth of your credential.

Multiple choice questions are still difficult, but is it wise to use this approach for all 60 questions? I respectfully disagree.

And then there is the wording of questions that is an added cause for concern.

If professors don’t structure the stems of these questions clearly, it leaves room for confusion.

There is also a psychological component to multiple choice that can intimidate students and ultimately affect their answers,

“I’ll second guess myself just on the fact that I put three ‘C’s in a row,” said Xavier Harris, computer systems technician student.

Questions that purposely try to trick you can be problematic, especially with the use of double negatives.

It’s okay to throw in a few if necessary, but to have 15 double negative questions and then switch back to regular ones can seriously make students trip on their shoelaces.

Not all professors choose this route, however.

Some will have a balance of multiple choice and written questions that accurately matches what students should be tested on.

This approach is crucial given the diversity within the college, like the welding program which is primarily hands-on.

As such, some programs require a certain degree of knowledge that needs to be expressed in words.

The thing about multiple choice is that your answer is either right or wrong.

Written answers give us a fair chance.


Attack of the Scantrons: just pick ‘C’