Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - E-Assessment


The multiple-choice method is listed as an independent form of examination in the ZSP-HU at the HU Berlin. In the actual sense, however, it is a form of presentation of the exam questions: as multiple choice with some additional options such as assignment, rearrangement and text input. This procedure is predominantly used in closed-book examinations, but is also possible in open-book examinations.


As a written examination procedure, it is conducted with the help of the HU's examination system, the Prüfungsmoodle. It can be conducted as a closed-book or open-book examination at a distance or in presence. As a rule, the multiple-choice procedure is designed as a closed examination with the requirement of supervision, which takes place either on-site (digital face-to-face examination) or by means of video conferencing (remote supervision examination with the right to choose).

Multiple-choice procedure with the test module

Multiple-choice examinations are examinations in which one or more answers must be selected from a set of alternative answers. The best known type is multiple choice, where one (single response) or more (multiple response) correct answers have to be ticked or clicked.

However, assignment tasks (e.g. drag-and-drop tasks) and cloze text tasks with list fields are also assigned to the multiple-choice method at the HU Berlin, because the Moodle test module supports these variants.

A fixed key (percentage achieved - grade) must be used for the assessment of examinations in the multiple-choice method (see §96c, (4), (5) ZSP-HU).

What are the advantages of the multiple-choice method?

In the case of tasks according to the multiple-choice method - if they are set with the help of a computer - automatic correction is possible (i.e. no personnel effort). The method is therefore very well suited for large cohorts. The assessment is independent of the person. If the tasks are prepared correctly, the assessment is error-free, because, for example, there are no errors when adding up the points. The examinees can view their results promptly after completing the examination, if the examiners have previously checked the results again for conspicuous error patterns.

The assessment is often more transparent than an assessment of tasks that require an answer in text format, since the answer does not have to be interpreted. Examinees must respond directly to the question. Examiners do not receive answers that are not or only partially related to the question, nor do they have to decide how many points to award for each answer that is partially correct.

Cheating (in the form of copying / collaborating) can be curbed by using random questions. To do this, examiners create several different, equivalent questions that test the same competency with the same level of difficulty (such as tasks with the same problem, but different numerical examples or different linguistic examples). From these tasks, one question is drawn at random for each examinee. In this way, a separate examination can be created for almost every examinee.

The variety of task types in the multiple-choice method (multiple choice, assignment, cloze, drag-and-drop) makes it possible to test very simple (e.g. definitions) to very complex content (e.g. analysis and application tasks).

What disadvantages can arise with the multiple-choice method compared to other forms of examination?

The preparation of tasks in the multiple-choice method is time-consuming. The tasks must be designed in such a way that the answers cannot be guessed by the process of elimination. Wrong answer alternatives must be clearly wrong, but still seem plausible if one does not have the required knowledge.

As a rule, multiple-choice method tasks are easier for examinees because the correct answer only has to be recognised (and not formulated by oneself). Terminology, for example, can only be tested as passive vocabulary.

The multiple-choice method is only suitable to a limited extent for testing certain competencies (e.g. pictorial representations or calculations, see question "When is the multiple choice method suitable?"). The assessment of partial competencies is also challenging.

Those who use the multiple-choice method must ensure that the examinees are familiar with the types of tasks. Students should be given the opportunity to take a sample exam.

Another disadvantage is that, according to the ZSP-HU, questions in the multiple-choice method must be asked by two examiners (ZSP-HU §96c para. 2).

When is the multiple-choice method suitable?

The multiple-choice method is particularly suitable when the question has a clear answer (e.g. What is the finite verb of the sentence X? What is the name of the capital of X? What is the active ingredient of the drug X?). The procedure can also be used if the answer consists of several parts (e.g. Click all cities with more than 1 million inhabitants).

Calculations can be checked well using the multiple-choice method if only the final result is assessed. If the calculation procedure is unambiguous (i.e. there are no multiple calculation paths), intermediate results can of course also be checked.

If the answer requires pictorial representations (e.g. linguistic structure trees, geographical maps), one can offer several representations and ask which is the correct one. In this case, however, the assessment of partial competencies is again only possible to a limited extent. One option is to award half the points for an "almost correct" representation.

Translation competences cannot be tested directly. However, it is possible to test these competences through comprehension questions, if indeed only comprehension counts and not, for example, formulation competence in the target language.

The multiple-choice method is often used to test whether examinees can recognise the correct answer. It does not necessarily test whether examinees actively possess the knowledge. For example, if an examinee ticks the answer "The preposition is governed by the verb" to the question "How do you recognise a prepositional object?", this does not necessarily mean that the examinee would recognise a prepositional object in a sentence. However, it is possible to construct questions that require examinees to demonstrate analytical knowledge. In the case just described, for example, one could give a selection of sentences and ask which of the sentences contains a prepositional object.

The multiple-choice method is not suitable if the examinees are to take and defend a point of view, evaluate or justify something (for example: Should children grow up multilingual?). Furthermore, the multiple choice method is not suitable for testing formulation skills.

What are the basic challenges of the multiple choice method?

Multiple-choice method exams require a lot of preparation time. The preparation of the questions is relatively time-consuming. In addition, students must be familiarised with the procedure. A computer must be available or provided for the examinees (in the case of computer-based procedures).