It's been a while since I've been in school, but I've recently taken multiple choice tests online for different things...
They are pretty annoying if you ask me.
Do multiple choice tests REALLY prove anything?
How reliable are they in measuring intellect?
Multiple Choice tests can look for your ability to quickly recognize a correct answer out of a set of (somewhat) incorrect answers, without you having to work out the complete answer.
The disadvantage is that such a test says nothing about the way you arrived at the answer. For that, worked out answers are much better.
The greatest advantage of MC is that it's extremely easy to check and correct, allowing for a much greater range of data-gathering (either from larger tests or from more persons doing the test).
Usually, the best option lies in the middle; a couple of open questions that require working out the answer, to see whether you properly understand the topic. A a larger amount of MC questions to evaluate your general knowledge of the subject.
In electrical engineering, they usually had just about every answer you could arrive at if you did something wrong while working the problem, as well as the correct answer. You had to work the problem out all the way. No partial credit. They were given by the lazy professors.
I had the same major, and I knew one of the graders. If the test taker got the wrong answer, he'd then have to try to figure out whether it was a simple arithmetic error (only some points deducted) or a total lack of understanding of what was going on (zero credit) or something in between. This also applied to homework. It could be extremely time consuming grading the things. (And let's not mention the fact that the homework could take hours, twice a week, to do from the student side...)
Professors spend so much time working for a salary-based job...and a shitty salary without benefits for a lot of them. I can understand why multiple choice would be necessary, simply because there aren't enough hours in the day.
So if you got it right, did they check to make sure it wasn't a guess?
Well it would be unlikely that someone would guess the correct current or voltage to three decimal places. Nevertheless, I would imagine they skimmed it.
I tend to agree. Very often even in college profs would find that a lot of students could recognize that "oh this is a question about Snell's Law" and use the formula (a simple one) appropriately. But then the prof could take the student out into the hallway (where there was a window), and ask him at what angle they wouldn't be able to see through the glass (but just get a reflection of the hallway). Or at least, how they'd go about figure out what that angle is. They'd have no clue. But that is exactly what Snell's Law governs; it's the law describing how much light "bends" when it goes from one transparent medium to another--for example how much a stick appears to bend where it enters the water. They made no connection between the abstract "knowledge" in their textbook and the real world.
THAT is someone who has a ton of book knowledge but can't apply it to reality.
Another good example is story problems. If you can't do a story problem for math, then one of two things is going on: 1: you can't read the problem or your reading comprehension is lacking or 2: You really don't understand what math is all about even if you can mechanically do math problems when they are laid out on paper. When someone says "I hate story problems" I mentally flag them as innumerate until they have proved they are illiterate instead.