Objective Assessments: Are Choice-Based Tests Best for Your Classroom?

When it comes to potential structures for classroom assessments, choice-based tests are an oft-used format. They’re easy to make, straightforward to grade, and simply-structured enough that most students will have no problems understanding how to take them. Choice-based tests usually feature one of two general sets of content:

1. Alternate-Choice Items

Alternate-choice tests are the most common forms of objective tests. You will find variations of the popular true or false format (yes/no, agree/disagree, etc.). Alternate- choice tests are easy to score; therefore, they are time-savers for teachers. They are a quick way to evaluate students, and they also come in handy when students’ writing skills haven’t fully developed. For example, this technique may be used after studying a short story to “check for understanding” in younger students.

Nevertheless, writing these tests is not as easy as scoring or administering them. It takes skill to write unambiguous test questions. Remember that students should be tested only for skills they have developed; it’s inadvisable to include questions that contain new vocabulary, or vocabulary beyond the students’ understanding. Teachers should also take into account that these tests are less reliable, because there’s always a chance that the student may guess the answer. Remember that a student has a 50% chance of guessing the answer to a question with two alternatives.

2. Multiple-Choice Items

These tests are well known in the teaching field. They consist of several options (three to five), from which the student has to choose the correct answer. Usually, one of the answers is correct, and the rest are called “distracters,” because they may seem possible answers but are incorrect. It takes patience and deep knowledge of the subject to build intelligent questions and tricky answers that challenge students.

As streamlined as choice-based tests can be, many educators feel that they’re also too limited in structure to be able to test nuance well. If you’re unconvinced that choice-based tests would best serve your students, check out our other articles on what makes for good classroom assessment and what options you have in structuring your evaluations.

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