Why Do Multiple-Choice Tests Lie All the Time?

On Inside Higher Ed today “MathProf,” an anonymous poster, raised an original objection to multiple-choice tests: they are packed with lies. He said one student “pointed out to me that multiple-choice tests are inherently deceptive, featuring wrong answers deliberately designed to appear plausible. Is this really the skill we want to teach and reward: not knowledge, not reasoning, but the ability to choose the most acceptable answer in a forest of deliberately plausible lies?” Point taken. We here at Minding the Campus are opposed to lies, forests of plausible lies in particular, but the way out seems clear: let’s just make sure that all possible choices on these tests are correct. Every student will therefore get the same perfect score, a decisive boost for equality as well as truth in testing.

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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