“Multiple Choice” Isn’t a Dirty Phrase

Is multiple choice testing the only way to test students? NO! Can it be useful? I've found that multiple choice questions can help students.
I dislike all the testing my students march through, slug through, cry through. Much of the standardized testing is multiple choice, yet I believe “multiple choice” isn’t a dirty phrase. Is “multiple choice” inherently bad?
Could teachers make multiple choice meaningful? Here are eight ways to use a multiple choice quiz and provide meaningful feedback to students.

Standardized testing makes me queazy as a teacher.

I remember taking my ACT my junior year. Not a big deal. I went to college, graduated, got a job. And my ACT was forgotten by all.

Not today. My students stress over standardized testing. It’s in the news. Teachers “teach to the test.” Parents worry about it. In some situations, the ACT can help ensure licensing once college is over. The ACT can have big implications for sixteen year olds.

Sure, maybe I was a slacker. I remember some kids studying for the ACT. I just don’t remember the hoopla surrounding it.

Times have changed, and now anything connected to standardized testing is seen as bad. Still, “multiple choice” isn’t a dirty phrase, is it? I think standardized testing is out of hand (most teachers do), but I still use multiple choice quizzes or starter activities in my classroom. Why? Here are eight reasons why “multiple choice” isn’t a dirty phrase:

Gives teachers a quick snapshot. Multiple choice is quick, normally about five minutes. In those five minutes, I can see whom I need to speak with about reading the assignment – and start looking for a solution.

Gives students quick feedback. Because a class can discuss answers in less than five minutes, students have immediate feedback. I can whip through grading, give students fast feedback, and start the lesson with my new results.

Corrects little errors. When giving a multiple choice quiz, I’ve had students who have read and taken notes look up at me and say, “Oh!” They missed something while reading, or were confused. Looking at the correct answer clarifies their reading.

Starts discussions. Sometimes I stare at a class, excitedly waiting for them to brim over with symbols and characterization from last night’s reading. Sometimes that happens; many times it does not. If students have information in front of them, they have a starting point.

Some students like multiple choice. That is just their style, and nothing is wrong with that.

Springboards actual writing. It is easy for me to say, in number ___, character A did ___. What would happen if he had done one of those other options? Would the story be better or worse? The multiple choices allows for multiple writing prompts.

Helps parents. I sometimes have parents who read a book with their children, or at least remember the story from their schooling. Looking at  their child’s multiple choice quizzes, chapter by chapter, gives them a quick review. Then they work together with their child, and nothing is better than that.

Acts as a study guide. Some books are long. Some kids cannot remember facts from start to finish, and others need a simple brush-up. Looking at completed multiple choice quizzes gives an accurate review of facts.

Standardized testing is the hot topic in education right now and “multiple choice” is lumped with it. Is multiple choice the only way to assess students? No! Is it the best way? Probably not. Can it still be useful? Yes – especially when it is not the beginning and the end of assessment.

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