If you’ve ever been in a school environment – especially a rather large institution - before then I’m sure you’ve probably faced the ruthless multiple choice exam. Some people love them, some hate it; as for me, I absolutely detest this format. You might think it’s because I have a thing for writing (which I do) or that I’m just plain bad at “writing” multiple choice exams (which I am), but it’s neither. I hate them for the simple fact that they don’t really test you on much of anything!
Let me give you some examples in my own life. I’m in university for the sciences, and as such I’ve been faced with entire exams – no, entire courses made up of multiple choice questions. It wouldn’t be too bad if these exams were straight forward, with a simple question and then 4 or 5 possible answers. Oh no, my professors in their infinite wisdom decided to artificially make the exams harder with answers in the format of “d) two of the above, d) both a and b, d)none of the above, d)all of the above”. These horrendous answers can be included in almost every question!
So what, you might ask? If you know the material you should get the answers right regardless. And that’s absolutely true… if I memorized every little bit of information in every lecture and textbook. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve never met anyone who’ve so meticulously memorized every tiny detail in a 4 month long course. And even still, some of the questions are so absolutely unfair that even if you were to know the answer you could get them wrong.
In one of my 2nd year biology courses one of the questions asked me about a base for DNA, the correct answer would have been “deoxyribonucleoside” but the professor put “deoxyribonucleotide” (it’s a similar compound with a few carbon atoms in a different arrangement) instead, thus the answer was “none of the above” instead of a or b. Now yes as scientists we should look out for every detail, no matter how small, but in an stressful exam environment with limited time and resources, do you really expect us to read every last letter of every word?
Aren’t we supposed to be tested on how well we know the subject as a whole, or how well we can apply our knowledge to help improve the field? I’m sure that’s what many think when they apply to university! But no, we are tested on irrelevant details, like what scientist has done what experiment or won what Nobel Prize in what year – all information that has next to no real life applications. Now I know that these questions make up for a small part of the overall exam, but when each question can be worth 1% of your overall grade, they shouldn’t exist at all. So why do professors do this? Because it’s easy; it’s easy to write, and easier to mark!
So if any professors read this, please please please include less and less multiple choice questions on your exams. I know it’s not feasible for first or second year courses due to how large the class sizes get, but there’s no excuse to include them in higher year classes. This student is fed up with multiple choice exams!