Subjective and objective are terms used to refer  to the scoring tests. All test items, no matter how they are devised , require candidates to exercise a subjective judgment. In an essay test, for example, candidates must  think of what to say and then express their ideas as well as possible; in a multiple choice test they have to weigh up carefully all the alternatives and select the best one. Furthermore, all tests are constructed subjectively by the tester, who decides which areas of language to test, how to test those particular areas, and what kind of items to use for this purpose. Thus, it is only the scoring of a test that can be described as objective. This means that a testee will score the same mark no matter which examiner marks the test.
Since objective tests usually have only one correct answer (or, at least, a limited number of correct answer), they can be scored mechanically. The fact that objective tests can be marked by computer is one important reason for their evident popularity among examining bodies responsible for testing large numbers of candidates.
Clearly, the ability to write can only be satisfactorily tested by a subjective examination requiring the students to perform a writing task similar to that required in real life. On the other hand, reliability will not be difficult to achieve in the marking of the following objective item. The question of how valid such an item is, however, may now be of considerable concerned. How far do items like this reflect the real use of language in everyday life?
     Complete the sentences by putting the best word in each blank.
     ‘Is your home still in Cairo?’
     ‘Yes, I’ve been living here …… 1986.’
     A. for          B. on                C. in                 D. at                 E. since
On the whole objective tests require far more careful preparation than subject  tests. Examiners tend to spend a relatively short time on setting the questions but considerable time on marking. In objective test the tester spends a great deal of time constructing each test item as carefully as possible, attempting to anticipate the various reactions of the testees at each stage. The effort is rewarded, however, in the case of the marking.


Objective tests are frequently criticized on the grounds that they are simpler to answer than subjective tests. Items in an objective test, however, can be made just as easy or as difficult as the test constructor wishes. The fact that objective tests may generally look easier is no indication at all that they are easier. Another criticism is that objective tests of the multiple-choice type encourage guessing. However, four or five alternatives for each item are sufficient to reduce the possibility of guessing. Furthermore, experience shows that candidates rarely make wild guesses on partial knowledge.
An objective test will be a very poor test if:
– the test items are very poorly written;
– irrelevant areas and skills are emphasized in the test simply because they are ‘testable’; and

– it is confined to language-based usage and neglects the communicative skills involved

It should never be claimed that objective tests can do those tasks which  they are not intended to do. As already indicated, they can never test the ability to communicate in the target language, nor can they evaluate actual performance. A good  classroom test will usually contain both subjective and objective test items.


The distinction here is between methods of scoring, and nothing else. If no judgment is required  on the part of the scorer, then the scoring is objective. A multiple-choice test, with the correct responses unambiguously identified, would be a case in point. If judgment is called for, the scoring is said to subjective. There are different degrees of subjectivity in testing. The impressionistic scoring of composition may be considered more subjective than the scoring of short answers in response to questions on a reading passage.

     Objectivity in scoring is sought after by many testers, not for itself, but for the greater reliability it brings. In general, the less subjective  the scoring, the greater agreement there will be between  two different scorers (and between the scores of one person scoring the same test paper on different occasion). However, these are ways of obtaining reliable subjective scoring, even of compositions.