Original Research

Can multiple choice questions be successfully used as an assessment format in undergraduate mathematics?

Belinda Huntley, Johann Engelbrecht, Ansie Harding
Pythagoras | Issue 69 | a41 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/pythagoras.v0i69.41 | © 2009 Belinda Huntley, Johann Engelbrecht, Ansie Harding | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 September 2009 | Published: 01 September 2009

About the author(s)

Belinda Huntley, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Johann Engelbrecht, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Ansie Harding, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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In this study we propose a taxonomy for assessment in mathematics, which we call the assessment component taxonomy, to identify those components of mathematics that can be successfully assessed using alternative assessment formats. Based on the literature on assessment models and taxonomies in mathematics, this taxonomy consists of seven mathematics assessment components, hierarchically ordered by cognitive level, as well as the nature of the mathematical tasks associated with each component. Using a model that we developed earlier for measuring the quality of mathematics test items, we investigate which of the assessment components can be successfully assessed in the provided response question (PRQ) format, in particular multiple choice questions (MCQs), and which can be better assessed in the constructed response question (CRQ) format. The results of this study show that MCQs can be constructed to evaluate higher order levels of thinking and learning. The conclusion is that MCQs can be successfully used as an assessment format in undergraduate mathematics, more so in some assessment components than in others. The inclusion of the PRQ assessment format in all seven assessment components can reduce the large marking loads, associated with continuous assessment practices in undergraduate mathematics, without compromising the validity of the assessment.


Rasch model; assessment; taxonomy;


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