Why PBA Is Better Than Multiple Choice Question Exams for Software and Platform Certification

Multiple Choice Question Exams

How knowledgeable are you when it comes to MCQ exams?

Would you win a round at trivia night, answering the following?

True or false:

  • The longest answer on an exam is usually the correct one.
  • Exam answers hardly ever repeat consecutively.
  • The answers “none of the above” and “all of the above” are correct responses on multiple choice question exams 52% of the time.

If you answered “true” for all of the above, pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for being a big nerd! Regardless of your score, read on to learn why performance-based assessment excels where MCQ fails.

After analyzing 100 tests — from a diverse array of organizations, including high school exams, professional school exams and firefighter licensing exams — William Poundstone, author of Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody, found several common patterns among multiple choice question exams.

Poundstone said even computer-randomized exams like the SATs followed the same predictable patterns. Translation: The line between definitively failing and barely passing can be quite thin.

Despite our best efforts to randomize answer keys, there will always be some “experienced guessers” who slip through the cracks. Which is one of the reasons why industry leaders like Google, SUSE, and Chef are now adopting PBA in favor of MCQ exams for their software certification programs. We predict the majority of software and platform providers will be utilizing PBA by 2022.

Why Is The Industry Switching to Performance-Base Exams?

If you have ever experienced the frustration of partnering with someone who undeservingly passed a poorly designed certification exam, you already understand the game-changing nature of PBA:

No more end-users who don’t really know their stuff, no more mediocre channel-partners disappointing stakeholders and no more “hoping” certification recipients can utilize your tools in a variety of virtual situations.

Put simply, performance-based certifications allow software and platform providers to observe candidates in real-world environments, and they allow test-takers to prove their knowledge by doing. PBA platforms also allow busy providers to say goodbye to version control concerns since all tools are live applications updated in real-time!

Unsurprisingly, conservative IT-buyers are increasingly requesting performance-based certification programs from sales reps like Edward before buying. However, the majority of SMB software and platform providers have yet to make the switch.

While there are several reasons for their hesitancy, lack of internal knowledge is one common roadblock. Besides the fact that most certification managers are not developers themselves, embracing performance-based assessment provides the added challenge of thinking through the exam process in an entirely new way.

The 3 Components of Designing PBA

Constructing a PBA exam requires three basic steps:

  • Defining a starting state for the platform.
  • Providing directions on what must be accomplished.
  • Determining one or more acceptable end states for the platform.

Interestingly, end states can vary significantly based on the number of acceptable solutions to any given problem.

However, developing the actual platform is only half of the work. Providers must also consider how they will automate proctoring, delivery and grading, which differ substantially from multiple choice question exams.

It’s not uncommon for managers to underestimate the amount of work involved in delivering a successful PBA-based certification program, while attempting to scale. Just ask Lauren, whom we wrote about here.

When we met the overworked certification manager, she was answering 2 a.m. tech support calls, grading exams and managing proctors for several hours each week.

Lauren partnered with TrueAbility to streamline the exam’s registration, delivery and grading processes for a superior user-experience. The partnership also afforded Lauren the time to expand the organization’s reach and build new certification programs — a win-win for everyone!

If you’re ready to make the shift from MCQ to PBA, we can help. TrueAbility is on a mission to make performance-based assessment convenient, scalable and accessible for today’s emerging tech leaders. We’ve built the world’s most sophisticated platform for performance-based certification that can be affordably customized to meet the needs of growing tech companies. We also provide our clients with 24/7 tech support, automated grading and latency-free delivery.

Call us at 877-461-8702 for more information or click the link below to schedule a demo.


Build vs. Buy

Learn how outsourcing your to a PBA platform provider like TrueAbility can help you deliver your performance-based certification program faster, more affordably, and at scale.