By Janelle Clausen
Everyone is a different type of test taker, but from what I’ve seen, most people prefer multiple-choice exams to essays.
Multiple-choice exams generally consume less time and focus on familiarity, allowing for process of elimination. More can be tested in a shorter period of time and there are multiple opportunities to arrive at the right answer.
You also don’t have to justify your answers, which can trip students during a tense exam.
“Your elaboration may be completely wrong,” said Itzel Cedillo, a junior double majoring in Spanish and literature education, on why she thinks essays are harder.
Sociology professor Ian Roxborough understands that students have different preferences and lets them choose which to do.
Roxborough’s War and the Military class offers both multiple choice and take-home essay assignments for the three portions of the course. He finds that half of the students go for the essay, and the other half multiple choice. He usually pushes for the latter given the size of his class. It helps him avoid hundreds of pages of reading.
“Essays are a much better way to get students to learn, but I have a lot of demands on my time,” Roxborough said.
He added that he believes the problem with mass education is that it’s efficient, but underfunded in comparison to richer liberal arts colleges, so it’s challenging to deliver a quality education. He said one of his greatest dilemmas is coming up with enough questions that spark critical thinking.
Still, some students believe multiple-choice questions are inherently flawed. Husnain Mushtaq, a double major in political science and business, said that essays give him a means of carefully constructing his answers.
“I can explain myself better and provide examples to prove why I’m right,” Mushtaq said. “With multiple-choice, it’s just guessing. It doesn’t really test skill or anything. It’s just the luck of the draw.”
As a journalist I’m supposed to worship writing and rewriting. It’s my job and I usually enjoy it. Writing about a subject shows that you understand it more than filling in a bubble ever will. But what is easier for one student may be difficult for another.
Even I occasionally relish a break from writing, save for this blog that you are about to finish. I don’t just like multiple-choice. I need it sometimes.