Objective Tests

Objective tests measure one’s ability to remember facts & figures understanding of course materials. These tests are often designed to make test-takers think independently. Good objective tests require test-takers to employ high level critical reasoning and make fine discriminations to determine the best answer
Objective Tests. ‘

The most common objective test questions are:

  • multiple-choice
  • true-false
  • matching items
  • cloze

The most common is the multiple choice question (MCQ) test where students must select the correct answer from a number of possible answers.

The incorrect answers in MCQs are termed distractors.

Distractors should cotnain:

  • misconceptions
  • partly correct answers
  • common errors of fact or reasoning (these distract students who are not well prepared for the test from giving the correct answer)

MCQs are usually used to test the test-taker’s ability to:

  • recall information
  • interpret data/diagrams
  • analyse/evaluate material

Main strengths of MCQs:

  • test a wide range of issues in a short time
  • assessment is not affected by a student’s ability to write
  • can be reliably marked as all answers are predetermined
  • can be quickly marked by computer
  • computer marking gives easy access to an item analysis of questions to pinpoint problem areas for students
  • a large bank of questions can be built up to reduce future preparation time
  • can be used for quick revision at the start or end of a class and marked by the students

Main weaknesses of MCQs:

  • do not test the student’s ability to develop and organize ideas and present these in a coherent argument
  • takes a long time to write plausible distractors (especially in cases where higher order cognitive skills are being tested)
  • restrictions are placed on the test-taker’s answers as they must select from given alternatives
  • guessing may result (but plausible distractors will result in intelligent guessing)
  • questions are often re-used which means special attention to security
  • questions need to be pre-tested and items reviewed to ensure the validity of the items

Writing MCQs is a relatively difficult task. However, the effort expended in item construction is rewarded by the ease and reliability of marking

MCQs must have:
a clear and unambiguous stem
a correct answer
several (usually 3 or 4) distractors which appear plausible to students who do not know the correct answer
coherence to the content matter to be examined

E.g.

Sample MCQ

Tips for constructing MCQs:

  • use simply worded stems
  • present only one issue in the stem
  • avoid use of negative premises (may especially disadvantage ESL students)
  • ensure that the answer to one question cannot be obtained from another
  • Keep the distractors brief and as homogeneous as possible
  • ensure the distractors are plausible (i.e. common errors made by students)
  • use at least 3 distractors (reduces chance of guessing the correct answer)
  • avoid distractors that provide clues (e.g. phrases from text books)
  • group similar types of MCQs together
  • avoid using a pattern for the position of the correct response
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