September 27, 2006

Multiple Choice Tests: A-Great, B-OK, C-Overused

The correct answer is C

It is very common in nursing programs to evaluate students' learning primarily with multiple-choice exams. The reason for this is often stated that because the NCLEX-RN exam is multiple-choice then we should also. I have concerns about trying too closely to follow the NCLEX-RN exam model. They have the advantage of a huge population to pretest all questions, and a large group of contributors to the test question pool. Our use of multiple choice is more for testing efficiency more than emulation of the Board exam. To truly test learning we should be using different types of evaluation: essays, open book, short answer, concept mapping, etc. I've always thought to continue to use multiple choice because "that what the boards are" does our students a disservice in promoting limited ways of learning, and limited ways of demonstrating learning. I have yet to meet a patient with A, B, C, D on his chest. The Board exam may be multiple choice but my hypothesis is that a student who has good depth of knowledge (previously evaluated through multiple methods) can prepare for the boards with exam practice as he or she nears graduation.