Even a good examination system needs reforms. It is perhaps with this in mind that CBSE incorporated multiple choice questions (MCQs) in all subjects for students of Class IX at the recently concluded final examinations as part of the Comprehensive and Continuous Evaluation. So far, MCQs were only tried in Class X science paper.

The School Education Department too plans to introduce MCQs along with Equitable Standard Education, to start with in Class VI.

Other modalities such as what percentage of questions would be MCQs and in how many subjects would it be incorporated are still being worked out by both the CBSE and the department.

While welcoming the move, academicians said MCQs would make the students think as well as prepare for competitive examinations ahead. “There is wider coverage of a syllabus, students cannot depend on rote learning and for the teacher it is easy to evaluate,” says Avtar Singh, Head (Department of Educational Measurement and Evaluation), NCERT. He had conducted a workshop for District Institute of Education and Training (DIET) representatives on the art of MCQs.

Currently, in a majority of competitive examination MCQs are the most preferred format, but a student is exposed to that only when preparing for these tests. Even at the higher education level, very few examinations have MCQs incorporated in the question paper. Engineering colleges affiliated to Anna University, for instance, familiarise student with aptitude test in the third or fourth year to prepare them for campus recruitment as the examinations only comprise short and long questions, say professors.

Experts say introducing such objective driven exercise at the lower level would broaden the horizons of the student as these questions are prepared with a lot of care. However, MCQs pose other challenges. With a choice of answers students would tend to do a lot of guess work. The student's comprehension/writing skills cannot be tested. The question paper setters, on the other hand, needs to be more conversant on a subject.

NCERT is working with various States to adopt reforms where the analytical capabilities of students are put to test.

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Liffy ThomasJune 28, 2012