Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Writing Multiple Choice Questions

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Term2.png Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice questions are efficient and effective ways of assessing learning outcomes. They can be used as a main form of assessment at the end of the learning process (Summative Evaluation) or as regular assessment during the learning process in order to provide the learners with constant feedback and track their learning (Formative Evaluation).

Refined forms of multiple choice questions are: true/false, matching questions, and fill in the blank questions.

In principle a multiple choice question is a question that requires the learner to choose the correct answer from a set of options. However, formulated accordingly, a multiple choice question can assess high levels of cognitions, procedural level. This can be achieved through case studies. Thus if the case study (scenario) is strong enough one can ask several questions based on it.

They have a general structure containing the following elements:

• The stem, which is the problem;

• The alternatives, which are suggested solutions to the problem among which one is the correct or the best alternative (the answer) and the others are the incorrect or inferior alternatives (distractors).[1]

See also: Assessment

Toolkit.png Guidelines for constructing multiple choice questions

Guidelines for constructing effective stem:

1. It should be meaningful and present a well-defined problem;

2. It should not enclose irrelevant material;

3. If negatively stated (although avoid that), the negative element has to be highlighted;

4. It should be either a question or a partial sentence.

5. It could be independent questions or based on case studies. In this way one can assess a higher level of cognition.

Guidelines for constructing effective alternatives:

1. They should be stated clearly and concisely;

2. They should not contain overlapping content;

3. They all should be homogeneous in content so they cannot provide cues to test takers;

4. They should not contain clues about the correct answer;

5. The forms “all of the above” and “none of the above” should not be used;

6. They should be presented in a logical order;

7. Their number can vary (4 or 5) as long as they are all plausible.

Advantages and Disadvantages of using multiple choice questions

Advantages of using multiple choice questions:

• It can be used in a variety of areas and measure knowledge to more complex levels (comprehension, application, analysis)

• It gives the possibility to test a broader section of course content in a shorter time interval.

• It is less prone to guessing than true/false questions and it offers a much more consistent score than essay questions.

• It offers the possibility of a rapid scoring.

Disadvantages of using multiple choice questions:

• It cannot measure certain learning outcomes as delivering explanations, deliver original ideas, give examples etc.

• It is still a guessing degree which can be diminished by applying more alternatives.

• It is time-consuming and skill-requiring when constructed.

Varieties of multiple choice question:

1. Single correct answer;

2. Best answer;

3. Negative: the learner is required to identify the incorrect answer or the worst answer;

4. Multiple response: two or more alternatives are correct;

Link icon.png Web Resources
Link Content
Writing Good Multiple Choice Questions Interesting article on how to write good multiple choice test questions provided by the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching
How Can We Construct Good Multiple-Choice Items? This Paper prepared by Derek Cheung (Department of Curriculum and Instruction of the Chinese University of Hong Kong) and Robert Bucat (Department of Chemistry of the University of Western Australia) was presented at the Science and Technology Education Conference (Hong Kong, June 20-21, 2002)
Multiple Choice (Wikipedia) Wikipedia entry on 'Multiple Choice'
Writing questions for training programmes This UNHCR paper written by Bryan Hopkins (Senior Learning Solutions Officer at the Global Learning Centre of Budapest) serves as a fundamental guideline for writing questions for training programmes.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_choice(Multiple choice Wikipedia entry)