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Published: August 10, 2011

Multiple-choice test

An examination consisting of questions that give students a choice of several possible answers with which to complete a statement or solve a problem. Only one of the answers is usually correct, although some tests present questions in which two or more answers may be partially correct, but only one is entirely correct. Multiple-choice tests are popular among teachers because they are easy to construct, easy to score, can be used for virtually all subject matter and take less time to administer, thus preserving more classroom time for active instruction. They are popular among school administrators because they cost only $4 per student to administer, correct and score, compared to as much as $100 per student for a more comprehensive assessment test. And the tests are usually popular among students because they require little original thought or creative effort.
For the latter reason, they have become the target of criticism from educators and educational reformers who claim they are simply a labor-saving device for teachers who can accumulate an artificially inflated record of success with students by “teaching the test.” In the meantime, students fail to learn to reason and solve complex problems. Although educational reformers have managed to force producers of standardized tests to reduce the number of multiple-choice questions used on assessment tests, school administrators continue to be opposed to the teacher time investment required for correcting the more searching PERFORMANCE TESTS that depend on complex analysis of student essays.