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Most of the competitive examinations conducted for admission for higher education or job recruitments are objective in nature. They have several advantages over the subjective ones, for both the examining authorities and the examinees. The multiple-choice questions (MCQs) are the predominant type of objective questions. For each question, a number of alternative answers, usually four, coded as (a), (b), and so on are given, one of which would be the correct or the ‘most fitting’ answer and the rest distractors. The examinee chooses and indicates the ‘correct’ answer. The evaluation is done electronically with the utmost precision. The subjective type involves elaborate answering and its evaluation involves human elements, and therefore, sometimes, subject to vagaries. Thus the objective type of examination has the advantages of almost error-free evaluation, efficient answering by examinees who may have good subjective knowledge but no language proficiency, and a considerable saving in time for evaluation. However, the question paper preparation of objective type requires more care and talent. First, the standard of the questions must suit the level of the candidates tested. Next, while some of the questions could be straight forward, from basic concepts learned from textbooks or classes, some should be application-oriented, and based on a little extension of those basic concepts. Such questions will help identify better talent in a group, which is an important aim of competitive examinations. All the answer codes must have an almost equal probability of being the correct answer and the correct answer must be randomly distributed. (Some say that the choice (c) is often the correct answer code.). The concept of negative marking for wrong answers is not acceptable to some of us. They feel that wise guessing could be allowed and should not be discouraged with a penalty if it goes wrong. It should be noted that wise guessing is already allowed, as it is one of the methods of narrowing down to the correct answer after eliminating the wrong answers. If by this you are not narrowing down to the correct answer, then your guess is not wise but wild, which should be discouraged. The implication of wild guesses can be brought out with an example of a candidate A taking an objective test. Suppose A does not even open the question booklet but goes on marking one particular answer code, say (b), for all the 100 questions of the test, which may take less than five minutes. If there are four multiple choices, (b) would be the correct answer choice for about 25 questions, in all probability, getting him 25 marks out of the total marks of 100. Say now, B, a serious student who would have sincerely attempted might have got much less; how to tackle this situation? A should get only zero which he deserves. His 25 marks will be reduced to 0 only if (1/3) mark is deducted for every one of the 75 wrong answers. Generalizing, the factor should be 1 / (k – 1) when the number of alternative answers for every question is k. The purpose of examinations, particularly competitive ones, is to correctly assess the relative merits of candidates, which is made possible by the negative marking system. Awarding of any concessions to anyone is a matter that can be taken up at a later stage.
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