Exam thoughts: why multiple choice doesn’t distinguish understanding from guessing

While bored and watching students struggle through final exams, I could almost see the thought clouds bumping around up near the ceiling upon consideration of a multiple choice question like this one:

In regards to the reaction between ethanol and acetic acid in the presence of an acid catalyst, which statement is true?

a. Fischer esterification requires water, so use a dilute solution of acetic acid.

b. Grignard reactions are water sensitive, so the acid catalyst is for the subsequent acid work up.

c. The first mechanistic step is deprotonation of the acetic acid.

d. The product, ethyl acetate, is made in higher yield if a Dean-Stark trap is used in conjunction with excess ethanol.

exam thought cloud

 

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