Better Multiple Choice Questions

Assessment strategies featured imageMultiple choice is great when used in moderation for diagnostic, formative, and summative assessments. It can be a good quick check on a student’s knowledge base and can be effective in review.

Multiple choice, however, may have difficulty checking for critical thinking skills and subsequent processing of information if a question is not well-crafted. If a question is not well crafted, multiple choice may only check for knowledge, and would not discern a student’s ability to synthesize the data into a real application.

Additionally, multiple choice is the most cheated on form of assessment – while tactics can be used to reduce the chance of cheating, it is still possible on a greater level than other types of assessment. This makes it even more critical to craft better multiple choice questions.

Writing better multiple choice questions

A better, well crafted multiple choice question uses concepts from Bloom’s Taxonomy. The first part to a better multiple choice question is a better question stem. The question stem itself needs to have meaning, avoiding irrelevant material, and stated without negativity unless the learning outcome needs the question to be negative. Additionally, a multiple choice question should be framed as an actual question or partial sentence.

Multiple choice answer possibilities should be plausible, stated clearly, and mutually exclusive. 

Multiple choice for higher order thinking is often best stated as an analysis of a problem, where students read/review material then select the best answer based on the information given.

For more on better multiple choice, read Writing Good Multiple Choice Test Questions from Cynthia Brame at Vanderbilt University.