The Effects of Essay and Objective Tests on Students’ Assessments


This article is designed to add more knowledge about the types of questions we can set for learners as educators. Not only that, the scores and grading, how they can affect the development of the learners positively and negatively. The merits and demerits of each of the tests either essay or objective tests.  Take attention to each of them and learn more to apply in your day-to-day activities.

A. Essay Tests


The essay-type items provide an examinee an opportunity to show by means of free response how logical he is in analyzing a problem. Essay-type items tend to pose a rather general question and permit an individual the right to order his preparation of response using his own words and language. Associated with essay tests are some merits and demerits.

Merits of essay tests

The following are some of the essay tests.

  1. It is easy to set within a limited time: This fact has led to the popular and widespread use of the essay test items. Caution must be however be taken to ensure that it covers the complex behaviours for which it is known.
  2. Essay test allows the students maximum freedom of expression in answering questions.
  3. Essay tests can be used to evaluate and improve students’ written expressions, skills, and organization of ideas.
  4. It promotes the opportunity to have extensive and in-depth study of topics.

It permits the testing of items at complex levels of cognitive behaviors such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

  1. It is very cheap to produce as not much paper or questions are involved.

Demerits of essay tests

  1. Scoring is subjective: Essay tests are very difficult to score with a high degree of objectivity. Sometimes, the quality of the student’s handwriting may pose a problem to the scores as he may find it difficult to comprehend what the candidate has written. The score’s disposition and emotion at the time of marking may affect his scoring.
  2. The marking period: The period for marking essay tests is usually very long and the exercise is too demanding.
  3. The course coverage: The coverage of the course content is usually restricted as essay questions can only accommodate a few questions.
  4. Essay test item: The item of essay test tends to favor students with high verbal skills. Where a student has facts but is poor in language he may as a result of language defect mis-present his facts and information.
  5. Essay content reliability and validity: The reliability and validity of essay content tests are very low compared with those of objective tests. Essay tests may not be a good measure of all the course content taught by the teacher. This is due to the fact that essay tests contain few numbers of items and therefore represent an inadequate sampling of course content.
READ ALSO:  Best Duties of a School Manager

Contraction of essay test items

  1. Clarity in the wording of items: Interpretations of the demand of a question should be free from ambiguity.
  2. Avoidance of optional questions: The provision for choice of questions does not make for a reliable comparison of examinees’ performances.
  3. The wording of the questions should take cognizance of the maturity and learning experience of the students. Although essay test items should be challenging to the students, the questions should be constructed with such vocabulary that falls within the experiences of the students.
  4. Determine in advance the major and relevant points to be considered in scoring the essay test and where possible indicate the weighting of the scores for the various questions on the test paper. This will show fairness to all students. Otherwise, some may feel that it is after reading through their answer scripts that you weighted your scores to favor some people. Students will learn to devote more time to questions that attract high scores.
  5. The distribution of questions should cover a wide area of the course content.

B. Objective Tests

Objective tests are tests whose items require definite answers. An answer to an objective test item is either correct or incorrect. There is no midway as to the acceptability or non-acceptability of a response. Some objective tests require an examinee to supply brief answers while others call for a choice of answers from given alternatives.

The objective tests derive their name from the objectivity in scoring such tests. The scoring tends to ensure proper inter and intra-scorer reliability tests.

Merits of the objective tests

  • The opportunity to sample a large area of the content on which the test is to be based
  • The ease and consistency with which it is marked.
  • The definiteness of testing one item of the content at a time.
  • Procession of high content validity
  • Elimination of inter and intra-scorer bias
READ ALSO:  10 Things to Consider in Choosing Teaching Methods/Materials

Demerits of the objective tests

  • They are very difficult to construct
  • They require a lot of time
  • The cost of materials for their reproduction is rather too expensive.
  • They do not allow for tests of language ability and organizational ability.
  • The opportunity for guessing tends to limit the responses and reactions of students. The challenges to think are not so much as they feel the answer is already provided.

Classification of the objective tests

There are two major classes of objective test items. They are itemized below.

1. Supply Response Items

There are types of objective test items that are in the form of a statement with one or more missing words that must be provided by the examinee. Examples of supply response items are:

  • Angels whose sums add up to 180 degrees are said to be ———————
  • —————— started the movement of the Israelites to the Promised Land even though —————-settled them at the Promised Land.
  • The next term in the sequence 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 is ———————
  • The point at which demand equates to supply is the ——————— point.

Merits of the completion test items

  • It is very useful in assessing knowledge of facts, principles, and processes tests recall rather than recognition and so reduces guesswork.
  • Scoring is very objective.
  • They are easy to set. Efforts should be made to be original in setting the questions rather than just copying sentences from textbooks as this may encourage rote memory.
  • Scoring is very easy to do within a short time.

Demerits of the completion test items

  • It is restricted to the evaluation of basic and factual knowledge.
  • It is poor in testing high cognitive behavior levels.
  • It does not promote desirable study habits.

The writing of completion items should demand the supply of one or two information items. The answers to be supplied must be definite for each item. When there is more than one possible acceptable correct response such questions should be dropped.

2. Multiple Choice Items

The multiple choice test is the most effective and versatile of the objective tests. It usually consists of a statement known as the stem or body of the questions followed by a list of four possible options from which the respondent is expected to choose one as what he considers to be the correct response. The incorrect options provided are known as detractors or foils while the correct response is referred to as the key.

READ ALSO:  Motivation as an Achieving Tool in Learning: The Reinforcement

The multiple-choice items may take various forms. The item or statement may be in the form of an incomplete sentence or phrase or a direct question. Consider the examples below.

(1) Which of the following gives the best description of a test?

  1. Collection of like objects
  2. Collection of limited objects
  3. Collection of different objects
  4. Collection of distinct objects
  5. The three important stages in learning are:
  6. Acquisition, recall, and organization
  7. Seeing, hearing, and knowledge
  8. Hearing, memory, and recall
  9. Acquisition, retention, and recall

Merits of multiple-choice items

  • Ease of scoring: scoring time is limited, and is not associated with boredom or rigor.
  • Consistency of scores: It does not matter who scores or how often a test is scored using the same answer script, the scores are ever the same.
  • Guesswork is not as pronounced as in True/False items.
  • It has high content validity as it allows for a wide range of items within the content to be examined.
  • It is useful in measuring to a good extent the various levels of the cognitive domain.

Demerits of multiple-choice items

  • The difficulty in constructing suitable items
  • The time for writing items is too much.
  • A lot of stationeries are required for the reproduction of questions
  • Does not measure language ability.
  • Develop limited study habits as students tend to search only for facts rather than in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.

The writing of multiple-choice items should be guided by a clear statement of the problem being tested, positive wording of stem, making every alternative appear plausible, consistency in the language with which each option is provided, where numerical values are provided in the options, the options should be arranged in sequential order and avoid the use of none of the above or all of the above in your options.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like