9 May /14

Multiple choice

Multiple choice (test)

The multicle choice type of assessment was developed in the United States. It is familiar to any student (think SAT tests) and from popular shows (think Who Wants to be a Millionaire?)

Dr. Yerkes (who was President of the American Psychological Association) was the man. His speciality was testing. He started with tests for mice, crows and pigs. At a presentation on the Study of Human Behavior in 1913 he presented a multiple choice test which would be suitable for man and other mammals. The report of this conference one year later was the first use in print of the phase multiple choice in English.

In 1917 the US Army still had a total of only 200,000 soldiers. Then the US joined the First World War and within 18 months the number of soldiers in the army increased to a phenomenal 3.5 million. Just one year later there were 200,000 officers, the same number as the whole army had only a few months previously!

What was needed was a quick and dirty way to make intelligence testing that combined the attributes of being systematic, scientific, objective and easy to administer. Dr. Yerkes was extremely convincing. He presented a multiple choice test to the army. After several modifications, it was used on a very broad basis for examining the intelligence and suitability of US Army recruits. Jerkes became Chairman of the Emergency Psychologists Committee and a psychological officer who built up an army company of psychologists. They certainly did a lot of testing. Altogether 1.7 million recruits were tested.

Even at this time, the Army felt that the testing was relatively superficial and was ambivalent about the general results. However Dr. Yerkes managed to use his reference client as a way into education testing. The multiple choice test was accepted for use in the SAT test in 1926 and has been used since.

Did you like the article? Then please like and share it on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter or add it in Google+.