The next advantage concerns the format of the test that clearly implies the idea of what the learner should do. The instructions are clear, unambiguous. The students know what they are expected to do and do not waste their precious time on trying to figure out what they are supposed to do.
The last advantage displayed by Weir is that the MCQs in a certain context are better than open-ended or short-answer questions, for the learners are not required to produce their writing skills. This eliminates the students fear of mistakes they can make while writing; moreover, the task does not demand any creative activity, but only checks the exact knowledge of the material.
Having considered the advantages of MCQs, it is worth speaking about its disadvantages. We will not present all of them only what we find of the utmost interest and value for us.
The first disadvantage concerns the students guessing the answers; therefore, we cannot objectively judge his/her true knowledge of the topic. We are not able to see whether the student knows the material or have just luckily ticked or circled the right variant. Therefore, it could be connected with another shortcoming of the following test format that while scoring the teacher will not get the right and true picture of what the students really know.
Another interesting point that could be mentioned it that multiple-choice differ from the real-life situation by the choice of alternatives. Usually, in our everyday life we have to choose between two alternatives, whereas the multiple-choice testing might confuse the learner by the examples s/he even has not thought about. That will definitely lead to frustration, and, consequently, to the students failure to accomplish the task successfully.
Besides, regarding Weir (ibid.) who quotes Heaton (1975) we can stipulate that in some cases multiple-choice tests are not adequate and it is better to use open-ended questions to avoid the pro-long lists of multiple-choice items. This probably will concern the subject, which will require a more precise description and explanation from the students side.
To finish up with the drawbacks of MCQs we can declare that they are relatively costly and time-consuming to prepare. The test designer should carefully select and analyse each item to be included in the test to avoid ambiguity and imprecision. Furthermore, s/he should check all possible grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, evaluate the quality of information offered for the learners tasks and choose the correct and relevant distractors for the students not to confuse them during the test.
To conclude we can cite Heaton (1990:17) who stipulates that designing a multiple-choice items test is not so fearful and hard as many teachers think. The only thing you need is practice accompanied by a bit of theory. He suggests for an inexperienced teacher to use not more than three options if the teacher encounters certain difficulties in supplying more examples for the distractors. The options should be grammatically correct and of equal length. Moreover, the context should be appropriate to illustrate an example and make the student guess right.
5.2 Short answer tests
A further format that is worth mentioning is short answer test format. According to Alderson (1996:223) short answer tests could be substitutes to multiple-choice tests. The only difference is that apart from the optional answers the students will have to provide short answers. The author of the paper had not used this test format, thus, she cannot draw on her experience. Therefore, she will just list the ideas produced by other linguists, to be more exact Aldersons suggestions.
Alderson (ibid.) believes that short answer tests will contribute to the students results, for they will be able to support their answers and, if necessary, clarify why they responded in that way but not the other. It could be explained that the students will have an opportunity to prove their answers and support them if necessary.
Nevertheless, the short answer tests are relatively complicated for the teacher to be designed. The teacher has to consider a variety of ideas and thoughts to create a fairy relevant test with fairly relevant items. May be that could explain the fact why this test format is not such a common occasion as MCQs are.
At this point we have come to advantages and drawbacks of short answer tests. Weir (1990:44) says that this type of testing differs from MCQs by the absence of the answers. The students have to provide the answer themselves. That will give the marker the clear idea whether the students know what they write about or not. Certainly, the teacher will be definite about the students knowledge, whereas in MCQs s/he can doubt whether the students know or have just guessed the correct answer. Moreover, short answer test could make the students apply their various language skills techniques they use while dealing with any reading, listening or speaking activity.
Finally, Weir (ibid.) stipulates that if the questions are well formulated, there is a high chance the student will supply short, well-formulated answer. Therefore, a variety of questions could be included in the test to cover a broader field of the students knowledge, and certainly it will require a great work from the teacher.
Nevertheless, there are certain drawbacks displayed by the following test format. One of the major disadvantages could be the students involvement in writing. For if we are determined to check the students reading abilities, it is not appropriate to give the students writing tasks due to the high possibility of the spelling and grammar mistakes that may occur during the process. Therefore, we have to decide upon our priorities what do we want to test. Furthermore, the students while writing can produce far different answers than expected. It will be rather complicated to decide whether to consider them as mistakes or not.
5.3 The cloze test and gap-filling tests
Before coming to the theory on cloze tests we assume that it is necessary for us to speak about a term “cloze”. Weir (1990:46) informs that it was coined by W.L. Taylor (1953) from the word closure and meant the individuals ability to complete a model.
However, to follow the model one has to posses certain skills to do so. Hence, we can speak about introduction of such skill that Weir calls deduction. Deduction is an important aspect for dealing with anything that is unknown and unfamiliar. Thus, before giving a cloze test the teacher has to be certain whether his/her students are familiar with the deduction technique.
Alderson (1996:224) assumes that there are two cloze test techniques: pseudo-random and rational cloze technique. In the pseudo-random test the test designer deletes words at a definite rate, or as Heaton (1990:19) places it, systematically, for example every 7th word should be deleted occasionally with the initiate letter of the omitting word left as a prompt:
Although you may think of Britain as England ,i...is really four countries in one. There a.. …..four very distinct nations within the British I………: England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, each with their o…..unique culture, history, cuisine, literature a…..even languages.
(Discovering Britain, Pavlockij B. M., 2000)
However, the task could be more demanding if the teacher will not assist the learners guesses and will not provide any hints:
Scotland is in the north and Wales in the west were………separate countries. They have different customs,……………….., language and, in Scotland s case, different legal and educational……………….
The examples shown above do not yield to be ideal examples at all. Without doubt, the material used in the task should more or less provide the students with the appropriate clues to form correct guessing. Notwithstanding, the author of the paper has used such tests in her practice and according to her observations; she can conclude that the tasks with the first letter left are highly motivating for the students and supply a lot of help for them. Moreover, having discussed the following test format the teacher has revealed that the students like it and receive a real pleasure if they are able to confirm their guess and find the right variant.
However, according to Alderson (ibid.), the teacher commonly does not intend to check a certain material by the cloze test. The main point here is the independence of the student and his/her ability to apply all the necessary techniques to fill in the blank spaces. Concerning the mentioned-above scholars, we have to agree that the following type of test is actually relatively challenging, for it demands vast language knowledge from the student. Heaton (ibid.) believes that each third or fourth deleted word can turn into the handicap for the learner due to the lack of prompting devices, such as collocations, prepositions, etc. Whereas, the removal of each ninth word may even lead to the exhausting reading process.
On the contrary, the rational cloze technique, or as it is usually called gap-filling, is based on the deletion of words connected with the topic the teacher wants or intends to check. At this time the teacher controls the procedure more than it is in the pseudo-random test discussed above. Moreover, s/he tries to delete every fifth or sixth word, but does it rather carefully not to distort the meaning and mislead the learner. Besides, a significant factor in this type of testing is that the