There are many ways to test students’ knowledge of academic subjects. One of them is testing. You can offer students different questions, where only one answer will be correct. Such questions are called multiple-choice questions. When creating a test for an exam or midterm control, you should consider a large number of nuances. We are ready to share them with you.
What Are the Multiple-Choice Questions?
You need to know that multiple-choice question consists of two parts. The first is the stem that identifies the question itself. And the second is a set of possible answers. Only one of them is correct, but others look quite believable. Students should choose the right answer, not because it is obvious, but because they have this knowledge and can analyze all the options to focus on one.
What are the benefits of such testing? The main thing is, of course, simplicity. Answers should be very easy to mark. You can evaluate them both manually and using a computer. Well-designed testing allows you to set several goals at once and objectively assess the abilities of students.
Our professional authors have prepared strategic and practical recommendations for you to help you come up with amazingly effective questions for your test!
General Strategic Advice for Multiple-Choice Questions
Start preparing in advance
The examination period is always difficult and responsible. If you start writing questions before testing, you will see how difficult and time-consuming this is. This will complicate the task; you will not be able to prepare good ideas. It will be easier for you if you start in advance, and every week you will prepare several questions with multiple choices.
Use familiar terminology
The question should be written using the same words that you already used in your course. Unfamiliar expressions or words in foreign languages can confuse students. Most likely, they will choose this answer as incorrect.
Try not to use hints
If you use the same words in your question as in the correct answer, students will notice this. You can reformulate the sentence with other words to avoid this mistake.
Give up tricky questions
Of course, this is a very tempting idea that will help you have some fun. Some professors seem to deliberately come up with such questions that lead to incorrect answers. But that is not your goal. If you want to test the students’ real knowledge, discard the wording or underlining of the minor details of the decision, which may be misleading.
Avoid denial in your questions
Negative formulations are often left unattended, which distracts students. Even those students who study well and know the material can make mistakes in questions with a negative wording. This means that you should reread all your questions and get rid of those that contain a denial. For example, instead of asking about the building with what name the University of Waterloo does not have, ask, “What name does one of the buildings of the University of Waterloo have?”
10 Perfect Tips to Come Up With Multiple Choice Questions
There is no universal rule that can definitely be called the working one. Each teacher faces his own difficulties. Therefore, you can read a large number of different tips and understand which one is right for you.
- Define your goals. What task do you set for students? Do you want them to remember the stuff? Or is it more important for you that they understand the topic and be able to think critically? You can use both superficial questions and deeper ones. For example, in your answer options, you can offer an interpretation of some facts, an assessment of the situation, an explanation of the causes and effects, etc.
- Stick to the exact wording. We have already written that some words should be avoided when drawing up questions. Focus on the simplest structure possible; choose the right words. Then the students will focus on finding the right answer, rather than trying to understand the question.
- Prepare a good stem for the question. Make sure that the foundation contains the most words. This will help you prepare shorter answer options.
- Use plausible answers. Of course, you should not be cunning and use answers that can lead students astray. But they must be believable. Students should not immediately realize that they are not true.
- Consider the length of the answer. This is not an easy task, but some students try to guess the correct answer along its length. They think the longest options are the right ones. If you cannot come up with four answers of the same length, write two long and two shorts.
- Mix up the order. Make sure you don’t have the same letter for the correct answers, for example, b. Also, you should not have clear sequences, for example, a, a, b, b, c, s. Make sure that all answers are randomly distributed and do not contain any hints.
- Use the same number of answers. All questions should contain the same number of answer options—no need to give three answers to one question and five answers to another.
- Be careful. Read all your questions and answers to them. Imagine that you are a student, and you are being tested. You can also ask another teacher to read some of your questions and provide you with one’s feedback. This is what helps to find possible errors, correct wording, and other inaccuracies. Make sure that the questions are both not too obvious and not too complicated. Do not turn the exam into a challenge. You are interested in having your students answer the questions correctly, whether they really have the appropriate knowledge.
The Perfect Structure of Multiple Choice Questions
Well-written questions for testing have several signs at once. They are clear, structured, contain clear answers. Below you will find recommendations to help you structure your questions correctly.
The first thing you need is the stem. This is a brief background that provides the student with a whole idea of the situation. Here is a good example:
Mom brought a 6-year-old boy to the hospital. She said that for two days now, he has been suffering from a runny nose and a cold. This morning, the baby’s cheeks turned bright red. According to the results of a physical examination, a reticular rash is observed on the extensor surfaces of the boy. The plaques on the cheekbones are swollen.
As you can see, this is a description of the situation, which should help find the answer to the question. But the question itself is not there. And here he is:
What is the most likely diagnosis for this child?
After that, you can provide answer and alternatives:
A) Respiratory syncytial virus
B) Epstein-Barr virus
D) Parvovirus B19
Thus, to write a good multiple-choice question, you should remember the main sections of the structure: stem, question, answer options. This is a working scheme that you can use.
Tips to Come up with Alternatives
- Limit the amount. Each question should have 3 to 5 answers. Studies show that numbers in this range are most effective. More answers will confuse students. A smaller number will prompt a random choice of the correct answer.
- Make sure there is only one suitable answer. It is very important to get rid of the alternatives that are suitable, but not the best. This will distract and confuse students.
- Make the alternatives interesting. They must be believable. It is important that the student begins to reflect: why this answer cannot be the right one?
- Avoid grammar mistakes. Your typos may indeed be random, but students are less likely to choose this answer, as they will think that the teacher could not make any mistakes in testing.
- Avoid using the answers “all of the above” and “none of the above.” These options do not check if students understand the correct answers. They may not understand why this or that option is not true, but know that this is not what is needed. Your task is to make sure that the student understands the topic and analyzes the answers.
- Refuse the words “always,” “never,” “only this,” “forever,” “not a single,” “all.” There are not many universally true or false things in the world. Students know this. They will simply mark this option as incorrect and guess.
- Clearly state the questions. Do not allow any ambiguity. If you read all your questions and realize that you can come up with other answers that will also be true, that means the questions are bad.
In fact, coming up with questions for an exam or test is sometimes even more difficult than the student learning process itself. But this is what will help you test your knowledge and give the right grade.