MCQ vs Subjective Tests

MCQ vs Subjective Tests

  • Arya Vishwaroop
    Arya Vishwaroop

Introduction

All throughout human history, education has been evolving, and so has every aspect of it. From the gurukul system of ancient India all the way to virtual reality in the classroom, we have come a long way in the way we impart knowledge to students. Along with the change in the education system as a whole has also changed the way in which exams are conducted, and even the type of exams that are being conducted today. Today, there are three main ways exams are created - objective test or what is more popularly known as the MCQ test, the subjective or descriptive test, and a hybrid of the two.  Subjective or descriptive tests are where the student is expected to write the answer to a question in detail, while an MCQ test or objective test is where the student is expected to circle or bubble the answer in the OMR sheet provided. So, the question naturally arises - which form of examination is better? Let us look into the details.

What are Assessment Tests?

Irrespective of whether a student gives a subjective or objective test, the fact remains that both of these are assessment tests. So what is an assessment test? An assessment test is the preliminary and most fundamental way of evaluating the mental ability, retention capacity, problem-solving capability, technical knowledge, etc. of a student and is the best way of filtering out average performers so that they can shortlist the others for further rounds. Assessment tests help recruiters determine how skillful and talented students are on the basis of their scores, allowing them to focus on other aspects such as their communication skills, subject expertise, work ethics, etc.

Purpose of Assessment Tests

Assessment tests, MCQ or subjective, are designed to test students for admission to a certain course, college, university, job, or occupation. That being said, here are 4 main reasons behind conducting assessment tests.

Evaluate Skills & Knowledge

Assessment tests help evaluate students in a lot of aspects. The questions asked in the test assess the technical skills, aptitude, problem-solving skills, and subject knowledge of the students and generate scores on the basis of how well they perform in them. Students with higher scores get shortlisted for further rounds.

Filter Out Average Performers

Most assessment tests are designed with questions from different subjects for testing the candidate and are a good way of filtering out average performers. The candidates who have an in-depth understanding of their respective course subjects tend to fare better in the tests and get shortlisted for the interview round while those who aren’t so core subject-inclined are left behind. Hence, such tests are a great way to eliminate average candidates at the beginning itself, thereby reducing the burden on recruiters from interviewing a large number of candidates to choose the best fit for the job.

Avoid Loss of the Right Candidate

If only an interview round is conducted, the college/school/institution might lose a quite learned person as a potential candidate to a less competent one simply because of random chance or circumstance. Conducting an assessment test makes sure that the right candidate is selected.

Zero Bias Selection

Having an assessment test is actually beneficial to students because it makes sure that no kind of bias gets in the way of the selection process. This makes the whole process fairer and simpler.

Pros & Cons of Subjective Tests

Now that we have had a complete understanding of what an assessment test is and what its purpose is, let us get into each type of test, starting with subjective tests.

Pros

  • Evaluates the students’ in-depth understanding of concepts
  • Assesses accurately the problem-solving skills of students
  • Assesses each student’s learning retention accurately
  • Evaluates how a student approaches a question and what solution they draw
  • Assesses the writing and communication skills of the students

Cons

  • Takes up a large amount of time because of the nature of the exam being descriptive
  • Not a lot of topics can be covered despite the time being so long
  • Becomes difficult to conduct in the online scenario
  • Increased chances of cheating, especially if conducted online
  • Chance of biased evaluation

Pros & Cons of Objective or MCQ Test

Now that we have covered subjective or descriptive tests, let us look at the pros and cons of using objective or MCQ tests for student evaluation.

Pros

  • Can be conducted offline as well as online effortlessly
  • Easy to set a time limit
  • Enough time to attempt
  • Easy to evaluate
  • Easier to publish scores
  • Large number of students can be evaluated in a short period of time
  • Completely unbiased evaluation because of the nature of the evaluation being electronic
  • Large number of students can write the exam at a time

Cons

  • Cannot assess the in-depth knowledge of the students
  • Not possible to assess the students; writing and communication skills
  • Open to guesswork to some degree

So Which One is Better?

Each type of assessment test whether it is an MCQ test or an objective test, it is evident that both types have their own positives and negatives. So, the best course would be to incorporate the positives of both the tests and create a hybrid exam model where a portion of the exam will be MCQ and another portion of the exam will be descriptive or subjective. This will help in corporate the prose of subjective testing such as evaluating students' in-depth understanding of concepts, accessing their problem solving skills, evaluating their writing and communication skills etc. while also implementing the prose of MCQ tests like being unbiased, easy to evaluate, easier to publish results, conducting exams easily offline and online, etc. Switching to this type of examination would be the best choice moving forward because in a digital environment making the exams as fair as possible is crucial. Moreover, the most important takeaway here is that it not only multiplies the advantages of both, it also reduces the cons drastically.

Conclusion

So it can be concluded that an assessment test having both an MCQ test session as well as a subjective assessment would be ideal. This is already being practiced where all-round evaluation is of utmost importance, like in the case of the Indian Civil Service Exam.