1998; Haines 2004; McDonald 2007). Throughout this essay, we will delineate the advantages and disadvantages of specific exam types and questions, and eventually, we will arrive at multiple choice examinations and consider why these exams are optimal for an assessment of knowledge and ability.
The types of exams which can be employed to assess students are considerable: essay, short answer, practical, seen question, take-home vs. in-class, open-book, or oral examination are just a few (McDonald 2001). Each approach is accompanied by specific advantages and disadvantages which make them appropriate for particular situations. Essay exams, for example, assess not only the student's knowledge of a particular area, but also their ability to coherently formulate a written answer that is clear and direct, and it has the advantage that partial credit can be assigned based on the quality of the answer provided (McDonald 2001; (McDonald 2007). However, disadvantages include that scoring of essay exams can often be obfuscated by subjectivity in determining what qualifies as a correct answer and how many points may be subsequently awarded. Students with poor writing skills, who are as knowledgeable as their peers, may be penalized more severely in their responses due to grammatical and syntactical deficiencies in their writing which are unrelated to their knowledge of the particular question (McDonald 2001; (Haines 2004). As such, it is especially important to consider these advantages and disadvantages when selecting the type of exam which will be utilized. In the past few decades, in part because of technological advances that have made grading less demanding, multiple choice exams have come into favor in a wide range of academic and non-academic settings (Merritt 2006). We will consider the advantages and disadvantages of multiple choice exams and how they may be employed in later sections.
TYPES OF EXAM QUESTIONS
While the wide-variety of exam types might suggest there is an even greater amount of questions, this actually proves not to be the case. In fact, exam questions can be distilled down into two disparate types: open-ended and closed-ended.
Open-ended exam questions provide a question or statement and demand the test-taker to answer the question by drawing upon their own knowledge (Genesee & Upshur 1996). Open-ended questions require an ability to identify what the question is asking and develop an articulate answer that satisfies all the requirements of that question (Genesee & Upshur 1996). Essay, short answer, and "fill-in-the-blank" type questions are all examples of open-ended questions. Problems with these types of questions can be subjectivity and lengthiness in the grading process. However, they are advantageous in that they require a nuanced ability to produce a coherent and appropriate answer from one's own knowledge (McDonald 2001).
Closed-ended questions, unlike open-ended questions, do not require the test-taker to extract the answer solely from previous knowledge; rather, closed-ended questions provide a pre-existing set of potential answers in addition to the question being asked (Genesee & Upshur 1996). Since all students select from a set of preordained answers, the tests are ostensibly more objective