Chapter 5
The "Best" Answer

I T IS APPARENTLY an article of faith among statistical- minded objective testers that they are scientific. A principal reason for this belief of theirs is their manner of handling the problem of deciding which shall be the wanted answers. These testers make two main arguments concerning the wanted answer: one tends to be a plea for vagueness, the other a claim of scientific objectivity. We consider them here in turn.

Rarely do the multiple-choice testers ask the candidate to pick the "correct" answer. Rather, they ask him to pick the "best" answer, or the answer that "best fits," or "is most nearly correct," or the like. This is not unrelated to the ambiguity that haunts the multiple-choice format. In a sense it is a sign of emancipation, a banner proclaiming escape from the true-false trap. But it is sometimes regarded as an excuse for laxity and license. Defenders of multiple-choice tests are apt to use it to condone imprecision and ambiguity. Complain to them, for example, that the wanted answer to a particular question is certainly not a correct one and is not really even a good one, and they will point out that all is well since it is nevertheless "the best."

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