Testing Times: The Impact of Chinese Undergraduate Students' Perceptions of Two Examination Formats on Their Motivation, Study Strategies, and Approaches to Learning
Chinese undergraduate students from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan may have different language backgrounds and previous assessment experiences compared with most students studying in a western university. This mixed methods study examines their perceptions of how two examination formats - multiple-choice and essay questions - impact on their motivation, approaches to learning, and study strategies at a New Zealand university. Quantitative data were gathered using a modified Biggs' two factor study process questionnaire and a modified Patterns of Adaptive Learning Study questionnaire. Survey results were integrated with qualitative interview data gathered and analysed using a constructivist version of grounded theory. The participants reported combining deep and surface approaches to learning for both examination formats, preferring deep approaches. In comparison to study strategies used for multiple-choice examinations, more deep strategies were reported for essay examinations. Participants described combining memorisation with understanding in a sequence of study strategies for both examination formats. Predicting and practising both types of examination questions allowed participants to align their perceptions with possible examination requirements. Participants' confidence in their English language ability impacted on memorisation for essay questions. Analysis of the findings supports a model of the interrelationship of motivation, approaches to learning, calculating to develop perceptions of task demands, and the development of discipline-specific discourse skills in English. Perceptions of examination formats impact on study strategies with deep and surface strategies linked through practising. The implications of these findings for assessment of culturally and linguistically diverse tertiary students support the use of well designed multiple-choice questions in examinations to promote deep learning for these students, combined with formative assessment.