The Pros and Cons of Multiple Choice Exams


By, Roxy Simons  February 24, 2016

What do romantic comedies, award shows, and multiple choice exams have in common? You either love them or you hate them. While you can choose to avoid the first two, multiple choice exams are a bit trickier. These standardized tests are used to measure knowledge and progress from elementary school all the way through your university days. There are both pros and cons to multiple choice exams, but regardless of your feelings, it’s time to start appreciating the pros and minimizing the cons. After all, these tests aren’t going anywhere.

Most people hate the multiple choice format because there is not partial credit: if you select the wrong answer, then that’s it. No discussion. Those who struggle with these tests often do not focus on the detailed instructions, lack confidence in the moment, or don’t take each question at face value. These tests also don’t allow critical thinking; they primarily rely on memorization without full understanding. Standardized tests may seem impersonal and unfair, but there are many advantages to these assessments. For example, because they are so easy and quick to grade, there is a faster turnover from the time you sit the exam to when you receive your results. Your professors also can’t be subjective in grading, as with essays or fill-in-the-blank format, so your results often truly reflect your level of knowledge regarding a certain subject. This helps you keep track of the information you need to review later. Because many social work students work full time while working towards their degree, there is no leeway for wasting time. Each course needs to maximize the material covered, which multiple choice exams make possible. Finally, you don’t have to take the time to formulate long-winded answers to simple questions, making it easier to stick to the facts.


If you have a multiple choice exam coming up, the best way to prepare yourself is to take as many practice exams as possible. Knowing the format of the test beforehand is extremely advantageous. Time yourself to ensure you’re prepared on test day. Before starting the exam, fill out the necessary information, like your name and the date, before beginning. Read the question prior to looking at the answers, and try to come up with the correct answer by yourself. Then read all answers thoroughly and select the option that best suits your answer. If you’re unsure, eliminate any answers you know are incorrect. This should help you take an educated guess. Try to not skip around, but instead answer the questions in order to stay organized. Make sure to pay attention to the wording of each question. For example, wording like, “Which of the following is NOT correct?” can be tricky. Also, correct answers rarely include words like “always” or “never” and usually use terms like “usually” or “probably.” Oftentimes, the option with the most information is the correct answer. Because multiple choice exams allow professors to include more information than a regular exam, be sure you are prepared to face a wide variety of topics. Study, study, study!



February 24, 2016

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