Can multiple choice questions assess application of knowledge in pharmaceutical science teaching?

Suong N T Ngo


Introduction: Application of knowledge is the required attribute of graduates from pharmacy schools in Australia and worldwide.

Aim: This paper describes a study, which examines the use of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) to assess the application of knowledge in two Pharmacy courses.

Methodology: Seventy-three MCQs were ranked independently in a ‘blind’ manner as knowledge recall (K) or application of knowledge (A). The ranked MCQs were then included in the final exams of the Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry courses. The differences in the percentage of students who obtained a correct answer for each of the types of MCQ were then analysed using Student’s t-test.

Results: No differences were observed in the percentage of students who obtained a correct answer for all MCQs compared to the percentage of students who obtained a correct answer for A or K MCQs in the Medicinal Chemistry exam. For the Pharmaceutics exam, significant differences were observed between the percentage of students who obtained a correct answer for all MCQs compared to the percentage of students who obtained a correct answer for A MCQs (p=0.012).

Conclusion: This is a primary study in the use of MCQs to assess the application of knowledge, and its findings indicated that great disparity in allocation of A versus K MCQs often exists between academics, which could have a profound impact on the overall outcomes of such study. 


Assessment, Application Of Knowledge, Multiple Choice Question, Higher Cognitive Thinking, Pharmaceutical Science

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