I usually try to prepare my students for all of the types of assessments and activities they will face in the future. I know some people believe that all tests in an English classroom should be written, not multiple choice. Do you agree?
There is nothing illegitimate about giving a multiple choice test for a novel, as long as it is well written and accurately reflects a students' knowledge. It is sometimes more difficult to assess student work with multiple choice only, and I think, often times, teachers tend to lean towards use of the MC test because it is very easy to grade. Essays are, in general, more indicative of a range of student skills and knowledge, and I prefer them over multiple choice.
I do not like giving multiple choice tests. Multiple choice tests teach one thing--the process of elimination. I do not want students eliminating answers, I want them to recall information, process it, and tell me what they believe it to mean. Multiple choice tests do not allow this.
I would say no. Analysis of literature is so subjective that multiple-choice tests are an invitation to blow through without thinking. Remember that for some students it doesn't matter if they fail as long as they get through the class. Tests on literature should be essay-based or contain some objective standard for reading and comprehension. For example, citing page numbers would be hard for a student who has a reading disability and "read" the book using audio files, so the test should focus on understanding rather than on minutia.
On the other hand, there's no reason to eliminate a multiple-choice section of a test, as #4 says.
As other posts have already stated, the best assessments come from using a variety of forms and methods. Multiple choice questions can be included as a part of an overall evaluation or can make up an entire test. Written correctly, they can allow students to demonstrate understanding of imagery, recognition of literary elements, understanding of character motivation, and so on.
Although they are not the best form of test-taking, multiple choice questions are still useful in determining the students' understanding of material. As a previous post mentioned, the secret is in writing good questions and providing thoughtful answers from which to choose. Multiple choice tests are not necessarily easy; one of the first I made from scratch as a first-year teacher was so difficult that only a few of the 10th graders in my five classes passed. One of the toughest tests I ever took was a multiple choice test for English teacher recertification. They provide an excellent way of determining the best answer by process of elimination, especially when the answers including partially correct info.
I used to think multiple choice tests were terrible because the college I went to never gave them. But I have come to think that good ones are not so bad. The trick is in writing good questions. There must be ways that you could ask about factual things from the novel or, better still, about interpretations of the novel that you have discussed in class.
I think multiple forms of assessment are necessary to prepare students. Some of my tests contained multiple choice sections while others did not. I often gave a project or paper as an assessment instead of a test. Of course, students do need to learn to take multiple choice tests. They do seem easier but they can be made almost as difficult as an essay or short answer question. Each student has a different learning style and it is important to provide assessment that hits each learning style through the course of the term.
With that said, I don't think any test should contain just one form of assessment. To get a true picture of the student's knowledge, it is important to include multiple forms of assessment in one test. For instance, a test containing a multiple choice section should also contain some matching, essay, or other assessment options besides just multiple choice.
An AP Literature test is testing an understanding of the specific language, literary devices, tone, theme etc. of a SPECIFIC passage of reading that the students are referencing. That is not the same as a multiple choice test given as a summative assessment of a novel. If the purpose of the test is to check if a student read or can draw conclusions about the book as a whole then a multiple choice is a fine assessment, but I isn't likely to show if I student can create an argument about the interpretation of a piece of literature.
This is difficult, as the AP exams contain multiple choice tests. I must admit, I do personally not think a lot of multiple choice tests as, especially if you are just testing if the students have read the novel or not, it seems to make it too easy. After all, literature is not a science, and you have either read the book or you haven't, and perhaps our assessment techniques should reflect that. However, the prevalence of multiple choice testing does place us in something of a dilemma as we need to get students used to the mechanics of such assessment methods.
I agree that multiple choice tests are needed in order to prepare students for high stakes tests like the SAT. When it comes to showing if they understand the what they have read I think it is really hard to show higher level thinking by just picking the correct answer. I think that literature tests should contain both types of questions so that you can gage student understanding of the text as well as prepare them for multiple choice questions they will see on high stakes tests.