Are Short-Answer Questions Better Than Multiple-Choice Questions for Assessing the Understanding of English Language Learners?

Topics: Multiple choice, Assessment, Answer Pages: 2 (549 words) Published: August 8, 2013
Are short-answer questions better than multiple-choice questions for assessing the understanding of English language learners?

Assessment is an essential and vital source of information about students' language-learning needs (Gibbons, 2002). Assessments are a good way for teachers to get an idea of what their students already know and good at and to assess and evaluate which areas of language needs reinforcement. Teachers through day-to-day teaching and learning activities can assess their students understanding of the language and plan for further programs (teaching and learning tasks) that will help their students linguistically and academically in the future. Teachers should try and make assessments a good experience not a bitter and frightening one for students. Assessments should be about the students i.e. it should serve to maximise students’ ability and knowledge not to limit them and show only what they cannot achieve. Teachers use both “Multiple Choice” (MC) and “Constructed Response” (CR) questions (such as Short Answer, essay, or problem solving questions) to assess and evaluate their students understanding of course materials and principles. Multiple-choice items present a question and ask students to choose from a list of possible answers. Most multiple-choice questions feature one correct answer, and two to four "distractor" choices that are not correct. Questions can take the form of incomplete sentences, statements, or complex scenarios. Short-answer questions are “constructed-response,” or open-ended questions that require students to create an answer. Short-answer questions typically require responses of one word to a few sentences. “Fill in the blank” and “completion” questions are examples of short-answer question types.

When it comes to assessing English language learners understanding I believe that short answer questions (oral and written) better assess the students’ understanding and ability because when students answering...

References: 1. Gibbons, Pauline, (2002), Scaffolding Language and Learning. Portsmouth, N.H.: Heinemann.
2. Tech Know Teaching. Retrieved from
3. UW Teaching Academy Short- Course. Retrieved from
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