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  1. #1
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    Question Multichoice stem

    It is common in multi choice questions to identify how many responses are correct. For example

    Which one of the following statements best describes ..... or
    Which one or more of the statements describes .....

    But what if a stem is given as

    Which of the following statments best describes .....

    Would one expect ESL students to correctly infer that only one response is required or could they possibly be correct in at least considering the possibility of more than one correct response?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Multichoice stem

    First, best is a superlative, so the phrase best describes means there's only one answer. Second, if it's a multiple choice test, then there can only be one answer, so there shouldn't be cause for concern over ambiguity. Third, your 3rd example question, provided here below as 2., is a variation of question 1.

    1. Which one of the following statements best describes ...
    2. Which (one) of the following statments best describes ...

    The word one has been omitted in 2., and omitting it doesn't change the meaning of the sentence.

    Lastly, clarity is everything, especially on an exam. If you suspect that ESL students might think question 2. is ambiguous, then don't use it. If, however, it was already written on an exam, and the result was that the test takers provided more than one answer, then they were wrong in doing so. The reason being, it was a multiple choice test. Only one answer is correct. Right?

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    Question Re: Multichoice stem

    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea View Post
    Lastly, clarity is everything, especially on an exam. If you suspect that ESL students might think question 2. is ambiguous, then don't use it. If, however, it was already written on an exam, and the result was that the test takers provided more than one answer, then they were wrong in doing so. The reason being, it was a multiple choice test. Only one answer is correct. Right?
    Thank you for your prompt response. May I ask for some further advice?

    The exam paper I am refering to has over many years included a small number of multichoice questions. It has been common practice to have some multichoice with the standard single response however it is quite common for at least one of the multi-choice asking for one or more correct response. And this is my concern. Would an ESL specialist who had the job of vetting the exam would still accept that the stem

    Which of the following statements best describes .......

    to be without question to be interperted by an ESL students as only ONE response given the word best (as opposed to 'the best') to be a superlative.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Multichoice stem

    Quote Originally Posted by thevak82 View Post
    Would an ESL specialist who had the job of vetting the exam would still accept that the stem

    Which of the following statements best describes .......

    to be without question to be interperted by an ESL students as only ONE response given the word best (as opposed to 'the best') to be a superlative.
    Yes and no. The only way to settle this issue is for you to provide us with an example from the test of the kind of questions introduced by Which of the following statements best describes ... that require students to choose more than one answer. In that way, we can get a better idea of how the person who wrote the test is using superlative best.

    Does that help?

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