Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple-choice questions are one of the most popular type of assessment questions however it takes skill to craft a good question.

A multiple choice question consists of a stem, correct answer, and distractors. The stem can include either complete direct question, such as, “What is CourseArc?”, or a statement completion item such as, “CourseArc is….” The statement completion items require the insertion of the correct answer to complete the statement. It is highly recommended that instructional designers make stems short to avoid misinterpretation. Learners should be able to formulate their response immediately after reading the question. They should not have to re-read the question to understand its meaning.

parts of a multiple choice question

Creative Commons BY   Multiple Choice Questions by CourseArc is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Here are some suggestions to ensure the quality of questions.

  1. Avoid “None of the Above”, “Some of the Above”, and “Both a and b” options.
  2. Avoid “All of the following are correct, except . …”.
  3. Avoid negative stems. If negatives must be used, consider underlining, bolding, italicizing, or capitalizing them.
  4. Make all options and distractors similar in length.
  5. Avoid grammatical giveaways. For example, if the stem ends with the article a, and only one or two options begin with a consonant, then the distractors can be easily eliminated.

To learn more about writing great multiple choice questions, read Writing Good Multiple Choice Questions by Cynthia Brame from Vanderbilt University and Constructing Good Items by Jon Mueller.


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