Why Multiple-Choice Only Quizzes Suck

mcquestions-cartoonThe learning industry is taking-off with tons of gadgets and gizmos at our disposal. There are learning management systems, course creation tools, gameification techniques, and so much more. Even more exciting are the great leaps that have been made in the world of assessment, but before getting into that, here’s a little quiz for you: In your opinion, multiple choice questions:

A) Are great and are perfect for all types of learning
B) Provide insight into what has truly been learned
C) Neither A or B

While your answer to this question isn’t entirely necessary (you answered “C”, didn’t you?), I am using it to make a point about an unfortunate reality. Despite all the advancements in our learning tools, end-of-course assessments more often than not follow the multiple choice model.

The major issue with multiple choice only quizzes are that they don’t really measure deep thinking skills, and often the answer can be deduced just by the wording of the question. In fact, there is little to no critical thinking involved in any multiple choice based quiz.

In a world where technology makes elearning more dynamic, the quiz questions we use should reflect a similar level of flexibility, creativity, and intellectual stimulation.

An Example

Consider for a moment someone who takes a course on the solar system. Using today’s elearning technology, this course could involve video, games, linear/non-linear progression, point-systems, self-discovery modules, branching scenarios, and so much more. If the quiz at the end of this course only includes multiple choice, then we are neglecting a major piece of learning comprehension. The quizzes in our learning should not only include multiple choice, but also include video questions, fill-in-the-blank, sorting – to name a few. Changing the quiz question style keeps the learner engaged, as well as exercises various methods of learning recall.

Unfortunately, one of the main reasons that multiple choice is the “go-to” for instructional designers, teachers, and the like is because there are still traditional tools out there that lack anything better. Many learning management systems still adhere to a multiple choice philosophy – a pretty telling sign that these providers are out-of-touch with modern learning theories and trends.

You have a large choice of learning tools at your disposal, more than ever before. This is one area that cannot be overlooked when assessing which option is best for you. Here at LearnDash we understand learning, it is our industry. That’s why we don’t handcuff our users with multiple choice only.

Regardless if you are using LearnDash as your WordPress LMS, or something else, make sure you do your due diligence when choosing any tool involved with learning. In the end, it will make your content much more effective, relevant, and well-received.

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About the Author:

Justin Ferriman is the co-founder and CEO of LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by the world's leading organizations, such as the University of Michigan, Digital Marketer, WPEngine, and Infusionsoft. Justin has made a career as an elearning consultant where he has implemented large-scale training programs for Fortune 500 companies. Twitter | LinkedIn

3 Comments
  1. Carmel (real name)

    Great post, especially for eLearning developers but not a new concept. Dare I share this tale? Oh, pffff … what the heck … it happened years ago. It was the night before a major Psychology exam when I was at university. I HAD to study because, although I’d planned to night after night for days before, some fun on-campus activity had kidnapped me each time. Ok … tonight IS the night … I am at my little desk, I have my texts out, pen in hand, notebook ready … I open my course notes and read “Chapter On…”. There’s a loud knock on my dorm room door and 3 people barge in. “OMG, XYZ Band is playing at ABC Club tonight. You HAVE to come!” I looked down at my study-ready desk, then back up at my dormies. I shrugged. “Ok”, I replied. and off I went. Fast forward to the next day. I am in the exam room, exhausted, hung over and dreading the paper in front of me. It was 100% multiple choice but i knew zero, or close to zero. Sigh. I decided to us the only method at my disposal – eenie, meenie, minie, mo. Yes, a 2 hour exam based on EMMM. Now for the amazing part of this tale. When the results were reported I got a Credit! I was sure I would have failed but, no, I was in the top 20% percentile! wooohoo … but now I am veryyyyyyy reluctant to use Multiple Choice only in any of the programs I produce. A lucky break for me but also a lesson learned!

  2. Just look at the number of times contestants win on game shows when they have already said they don’t know the answer; often they do deduce which is a good skill – but 15 years my business partner created software called AUDITpower – it was the first automated software for checklist auditing. My partner had worked out you could answer any question with different answer types – like single choice, multiple choice, narrative, etc. BUT mostly every answer also had a supplemental of a narrative – you had to explain why you had selected it. The program enabled automated, scored reports plus input. AUDITpower became Empower, it went on to be licensed by two member banks of the Federal Reserve, etc. So you do need to just have answer types alone.

  3. Just look at the number of times contestants win on game shows when they have already said they don’t know the answer; often they deduce which is a good skill – but 15 years ago my business partner created software called AUDITpower – it was the first automated software for checklist auditing. My partner had worked out you could answer any question with different answer types – like single choice, multiple choice, narrative, etc. BUT mostly every answer also prompted a supplemental of a narrative – you had to explain why you had selected it. The program enabled automated, scored reports plus input. AUDITpower became Empower, it went on to be licensed by two member banks of the Federal Reserve, etc. A multiple choice answer should always prompt a supplemental.

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