I'm a student at State University of New York. My math professor gives scantron exams which consist of true/false questions for calculus and graph theory courses. Each question presents a problem and a solution, and all I have to do is just mark it right or wrong (by doing calculations on a separate sheet that won't be collected). I'm a transfer student, so I've seen how real math exams are written. The first time I saw it I was quite surprised.

Is this kind of testing typical for math courses?

UPDATE: after taking 2 exams this week, one in graph theory and one in calculus 3, I can say with certainty that scantron exams are useless. Why?

In calculus 3 I got 11 correct answers out of 12, and I was guessing 5 questions. Together with the curving that my professor did, I got 95. I didn't know the answers for almost half of the exam, and yet I got an A!
In graph theory I got 19 correct answers out of 25, and I was guessing about third of the questions. After curving, I got 86.

End of proof.

  • 1
    I agree that scantron exams are not optimal for accurately assessing students, but I hesitate to call them useless. If you've never graded mathematics exams/homework/quizzes/workshop writeups before, you'd be surprised by just how much time it requires. Sometimes using the scantron is just a matter of practicality. Oct 26, 2013 at 4:25
  • 3
    I think your math professor is lazy. Grading scantron exam papers is time saving. He can grade 100 students' exam papers in an hour. How many students in your class? Does he have TA? If it's a large class(>100 students) and no or only one TA, it is understandable. (I am not saying he is right in doing it.)
    – Nobody
    Oct 26, 2013 at 6:17
  • @kigen Maybe I shouldn't use "useless." Inefficient is more appropriate. I understand that it takes a lot of time to grade, but that's what you signed up for, no? It's part of being a teacher.
    – user8607
    Oct 26, 2013 at 17:48
  • @scaaahu You're absolutely right, he is lazy. He's teaching three classes, so I assume he has less than 100 students, and as far as I know he doesn't have a TA.
    – user8607
    Oct 26, 2013 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


Multiple choice exams certainly do get used in math, by many people and at many places. (At the university I'm at, we use them for the calculus sequence, and then move to short answer exams after.)

  • "we use them for the calculus sequence, and then move to short answer exams after." In my case there are only two scantron tests for a semester. Is this still typical?
    – user8607
    Oct 9, 2013 at 14:34
  • We typically have three four (two-three midterms and a final), but how many midterms one has also varies widely, and probably mostly independently of the format of the exams.
    – Henry
    Oct 9, 2013 at 15:35
  • As I said, it was a big surprise for me, because in my previous college, which was a community college, I had 5 exams and one final exam. Quite a radical change.
    – user8607
    Oct 9, 2013 at 15:43
  • @wizardo I'm with you on this one. This seems a strange way to hold a math test. However, if the teacher successfully butchers the answer enough to require significant algebraic manipulation, I can see how it could still prove difficult and computationally intensive for the student. Oct 10, 2013 at 15:29
  • @JonathanLandrum That's the problem - the problems aren't that hard (which is good for me). The difficulty level is easy-intermediate at best.
    – user8607
    Oct 10, 2013 at 20:32

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