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Culture of evaluation- Moving from subjective to objective form of examinations.

Examinations are a very common assessment and evaluation tool used in universities, for common entrance tests, during job interviews for teachers, for bank entrance etc; and in India many people appear for such exams in large volumes.

In the world of test creation and online exams, there are many discussions about the effects of Objective and Subjective exams on test takers, and how we seem to be moving on from the historical method of subjective exams to a modern objective type method. Both kinds of exams have their own merits, however subjective questions may offer deeper insights into the test takers' knowledge. But they are also more difficult to grade, as questions have long answers and never simple yes or no answers, and the person who grades them must have a clear understanding of the subject. When conducting exams for a very large population, there are many limitations posed by subjective test questions.!

Difference between Subjective and Objective exams:

Subjective Tests

Subjective tests require the test takers to form their own original answer based on their understanding of the topic, so the examiner cannot pre-determine any one single response as the only correct answer to the question. Subjective tests also require the test taker to give restricted or extended answers, depending on which keyword is used, like “brief” to signify that only a few sentences are expected as an answer; or “compare and contrast” or “criticize” to indicate that the answer requires more extensive analysis in the form of a long answer. Students attempting the same question might vary the length of their answers bringing more subjectivity to the exam.

Advantages of Subjective Tests

Subjective and objective tests are both effective in measuring knowledge, as well as the test taker’s ability to apply it to solve problems, but subjective tests have many advantages over solely objective tests. Subjective test questions also measure the test taker’s writing and language skills, especially if the purpose is to test language proficiency. Usually examiners of a subjective test are more interested in measuring the ability of the test taker to apply his knowledge, rather than just retention of information and being able to correctly recall it verbatim.

Short answer questions have many advantages. They are relatively easy to construct and can be constructed faster than multiple choice questions. Unlike matching, true/false, and multiple choice questions, short answer questions make it difficult for students to guess the answer. Short answer questions allow students to explain their understanding much better than they would have with multiple choice questions. But scoring is relatively laborious and can be quite subjective. Short answer questions often test a broader range of the course content than full essay questions.

Disadvantages of Subjective Test Items

Subjective tests may be useful for testing critical thinking, but there are disadvantages when it comes to marking these types of exams. The Test marker should consistently be able to mark every person’s work with equal alertness, strictness, and impartiality at all times during the grading process. The marker cannot become too lenient or severe, or succumb to fatigue, or be influenced by the previous test taker’s result, or by how the test taker did on previous questions, or by knowing the identity of the test taker.

Objective Tests

Examples of objective tests questions are multiple choice, true/false, matching, short answer, essay, oral, and computational; which allow the test taker to select a correct answer from an array of choices given. There is usually only 1 correct answer for a given question, therefore any person who has an answer key can mark the correct answer, objectively.

Advantages of Objective Exams

With exam creation software, it is simple, cheap and efficient to mark objective item tests because a computer can process yes or no answers, or multiple choice responses.

Students can generally respond to these types of questions quite quickly. As a result, they are often used to test student’s knowledge of a broad range of content. Creating these questions can be time consuming because it is often difficult to generate several plausible distractors. However, they can be marked very quickly.

True/false questions are only composed of a statement and have only 2 possible answers ‘true’ or ‘false’, therefore answering the test or marking it becomes very quick.

MCQ type questions allow students to respond quickly large number of questions can be used to test the knowledge in a broad range of content, or a vast number of test takers. Students can answer 60 multiple choice questions in an hour but only 1 essay. Scoring MCQ s is not only much faster than scoring an essay, but also much more objective compared to marking an essay.

Students can write long roundabout answers to essay questions and as teachers hate giving zero marks for an essay even when it doesn't say anything meaningful on the topic, the student will get some marks. On the other hand Objective type exams are generally more reliable and students can’t bluff the answers.

Writing skills, spelling, neatness etc will not get in child's way.

Objective type tests are unbiased in the sense that the teachers' preconceptions of a student cannot influence marking. Since the answer key is unambiguous any person marking will have to give marks for the same correct answer, unlike an essay where the same essay can get from 0 to 100% marks, based on the teacher’s thinking.

They are fairly useful as pre-tests since they are quick and not looking for higher level thinking so much as knowledge of the topic.

Disadvantages of Objective Exams

Most types of objective tests are limited to factual recall only and do not reveal the thinking process of the learner.

Students don’t get an opportunity to practice and demonstrate their writing skills; therefore it is not suitable for language skills testing.

True/false questions provide students with a 50% chance of guessing the right answer. If the student is test-wise then a student can get the right answer without really knowing the subject matter.

Objective tests often test skills other than those that the teacher intended as they sometimes require too much reading comprehension and abstract thinking.

In subjects like maths, the teacher cannot see where the child went wrong while doing a sum, as well as how he/ she got the right answer. Students may also lose out as they cannot get partial marks for correct steps towards arriving at an answer.

There is danger of sabotaging the purpose of work done in the classroom if students know that none of that higher thinking class discussion counts, and later testing will be only for recall of names and dates. If students can't display higher thinking in exams then teachers can't observe it also, so it is a limited diagnostic tool. These tests fail to provide a learning experience for students because usually they only require good memory and recall, so over-reliance on objective tests encourages rote memorization.

Objective questions can test knowledge and to some extent understanding and application of knowledge. But subjective exams can test more levels on Bloom's taxonomy (analyze, evaluate). Objective exams should therefore be balanced with other forms of evaluation in order to get the real picture. Yet when large volumes of people are to be tested Objective tests are used prolifically, just because of the ease of administering and scoring!