Best practices for crafting multiple choice questions

Why use multiple choice tests:

Faculty use multiple choice questions for different reasons. Some have just a few multiple choice questions along slide short answer or essay questions, other may construct their entire assessment with multiple choice questions.  Multiple choice questions are a good way to quickly determining students basic understand of the class material. They also standardize grading and can be less work to grade. Here are some tips for writing effective questions:

Parts of a multiple choice question:

Multiple choice questions have three key components

  1. The stem which identifies the question or the problem.
  2. The correct answer option.
  3. The set of alternative possible answers, usually referred to as distractor options.

Key guidelines for writing an effective multiple choice question:

  1. Use a question format rather than a fill in the blank for incomplete statement.
  2. Use plausible distractors.
  3. Keep the length of the options similar, avoid making the correct answer longer or shorter than the distractor
  4. Consider the placement of the correct answer, ensure variation in the placement of the correct answer.
  5. Edit closely for correct grammar in all answer options and keep the language simple and precise.
  6. Avoid clues to the correct answer. For example, make sure that one question does not answer another question elsewhere on the test.
  7. Avoid nonsensical distractors.
  8. Avoid extremes such as never and always.
  9. Avoid negative questions, students may be able to identify the incorrect answer without actually knowing the material you are hoping to test.
  10. Use only one correct answer.
  11. Avoid “all of the above” and “none of the above” answers.

Additional examples can be found on this PDF.



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