Monday, October 8, 2007

Essays Versus Multiple Choice Tests

Tam asked:

“All things considered, and in a standard classroom testing situation, would you rather take an essay test or a multiple choice test?”

I think I prefer essay tests over multiple choice overall.

Multiple choice have the advantage that it is relatively easy to do OK, but I personally find it difficult to do extremely well on them because even when I feel that I know the material pretty well, there are a few questions that it's difficult to distinguish possible answers from each other, figure out what the professor is really looking for, know what to do when all the questions look wrong, or whatever. And it’s common for a couple of questions to cover very specific facts that I don’t remember because I am not a fact-oriented person. Of course, if I had to walk into an exam semi-cold, I would definitely be glad for it to be multiple choice.

Essay tests require a significantly greater amount of preparation, but with effort and time, it is possible to get a very high grade. On these tests, you demonstrate mastery of the concepts and get to select your own facts to support them; you will not get tripped up because you did not happen to remember a specific example from the book, lecture, journal articles, etc.

My writing skills are definitely better than my multiple choice test taking skills. On m.c. tests, I have a tendency to make the questions more difficult than they are, out-think myself (e.g convince myself that the “obvious” answer is not correct), and generally guess wrong more often than I would expect. (E.g. on the marketing test, there were 4 problems I had narrowed down to two answers and I missed 3/4 instead of 2/4. I do this reliably.) I am not good at figuring out from the way the questions are asked, or by comparison to other questions on the exam, what the likely answer is.

This being said, for my marketing class, I'm satisfied with getting low A's on the multiple choice tests; it is not worth the extra time that it would take to prepare for essay tests to get a higher level of A that doesn't count for anything. I am not learning anything from this class that I won’t be exposed to again at much greater depth.

For the psychology class, getting a very high grade helps me impress the professor to write me a good recommendation down the road. (This is already happening based on the brief conversation we had after class on Thursday.) It also means that I am really learning the material more thoroughly, which is useful given the direct application of these concepts to my future plans.

I have my next (multiple choice) marketing test this Wednesday and I am hoping that I manage to at least not miss any of the questions in the chapter on marketing research given that, you know, I did it professionally for 8 fricking years.

1 comment:

Tam said...

I am lazy enough to generally prefer multiple choice tests just because they are so much easier to complete. I totally get your argument, though.