When I wrote what is perhaps becoming my annual blog on the topic last year, I conducted a poll. I was happy to see that only a small percentage of those responding use MCMG as the exclusive method of evaluation. I suspect that understates reality. In addition, I did not include the choice “use MCMG for more than half but less than all of the exam.” Faculty using MCMG exams for a substantial portion of the exam are, to me, are dodging their obligations to fairly evaluate students. Essays are the only way that students can actually be heard. Essay questions allow a two way conversation in which the students have an opportunity express the reality that law is nuanced, fuzzy, and often inconsistent. Of course, maybe MCMG testers aren’t teaching that at all which raises a more fundamental question.
I have heard a couple of defenses of this practice. One is that the outcome in terms of grades is the same as an essay test. I do not know anyone who has asserted this who has actually tested it. Aside from that, the more important point is that as soon as the students know that MCMG is the principal testing tool, you are teaching a different course than people who are not using MCMG. The entire focus of the students’ changes. And, to the extent you fancy yourself teaching critical thinking and analysis, forget it.
One defense is that people have different ways of learning. Huh? It’s not that I doubt that people learn in different ways; it’s that I do not see the connection between that and testing. MCMG exams and fact-intensive complex essays test different things, no matter how they are learned. I doubt any attorney is going to advertise that he or she is not so good at the analysis of complex fact patterns but hell on wheels when it comes to multiple choice.
Maybe, just maybe, if law professors giving MCMG had some experience or training in testing theory and exam writing I could be swayed. But I doubt it and I have yet to see a multiple choice law exam that required analysis.
Basically, in law school, if the exam can be graded with a machine, the course could have been taught by a machine. I could be wrong but I have yet to hear an argument for MCMG exams that makes sense other than a rationalization for not grading.