Introduction to Multiple Choice Questions
Recall all those multiple-choice questions (MCQ) that you have met on the tests. They do not create themselves. Instead, the faculty spend a lot of time designing MCQs and make the students’ life easier. If you feel scared to write multiple choice questions from scratch, then keep reading, and you will know the basic elements of such questions and clear tips to create good MCQs. Pay special attention to relevant examples to simplify the process of writing the questions.
The Structure of Multiple Choice Questions
Every multiple-choice question includes two parts. The first one is a stem, and it identifies the problem or the question. There is also a set of possible answers with a key that acts to be the right answer and other distractions that are incorrect. Students answer the MCQ by choosing the alternative that, to their mind, suits the main stem better.
The benefits of using MCQ are numerous. One of the main ones is the simplicity to mark, and it even may be scored by computer. In other words, the teacher will not have to spend a lot of time evaluating a large class. Well-designed multiple-choice questions allow testing plenty of objectives and present objective measurement of young people’s abilities.
There are several types of MCQs. They are the true-false, odd-one-out, best answer, multiple answers, and combined response. At present, “the best answer” is used more often since it appears clear and can hardly confuse a student. With odd-one-out, you risk making young people doubting on what option to choose, even if they have a fantastic knowledge of the material. It would be also easier for you to design “the best” answer type, as it takes less time and requires less preparation. Despite what type of multiple-choice questions you will prefer, there are common recommendations and widespread mistakes that you should be aware of to come up with a brilliant test and reach your aim.
Tips on Designing MCQ
There is no need to worry if it is your first time creating multiple-choice questions. Clear tips from experts will make the process easier, allowing you to save a lot of time. The suggestions for creating MCQs are grouped into the following sections: a) general tips, b) crafting stems c) designing alternatives.
Here are the general recommendations for everybody who want to design the correct multiple-choice questions:
- Write questions during the entire term. Now you know that MCQ is hard to design and requires a lot of time; that’s why you should write a few questions every week. It is the best time since the recent lecture is still fresh in your mind.
- Encourage the students to choose the best answer instead of the correct one. This way, you will pay their attention that the distracting part may include the elements of truth choosing, which they will lose.
- Use only familiar language. You must use the same terminology that was used during the entire course. Do not include unknown expressions or terms borrowed from a foreign language. It is appropriate only in the case that this is one of the aims of the questions. Most students are known to decline the distractions with unknown terms as not correct.
- Avoid trick questions. You should write the questions for the students who have attended the lectures and know the material. MCQs that aim to lead young people to incorrect answers via emphasizing another significant part of the solution or misleading phrasing break this principle and can’t be named as well-designed.
- Exclude the verbal association clues in stems. The students are more likely to choose the correct answer if the key uses words mentioned in the stem.
- Avoid negative constructions. When students see the negative wording, they start to feel confused. It makes the young people who know the lecture information well choose incorrect variants. The MCQ with negative wording leads to numerous mistakes. Hence it is better to exclude both in stem, and the provided alternative. For instance:
Who of these people were not the president of the USA:
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
- Joseph Robinette Biden
- Donald John Trump
- John Forbes Kerry
Stems are the base of multiple-choice questions. Here are a few nice recommendations for you:
- Place all relevant information in the stem. Avoid adding the information to the alternative if it can be used in stem. This way, the student will not experience difficulties with understanding the question and finding the right answer.
- Put the entire problem in the stem. While designing the item, predict whether the young people will be able to answer the question without reading the options. It would make the purpose of the question quite clear.
- Decrease excessive wording from the stem as well as data that is not relevant. Otherwise, the students will feel confused and lead them to waste time.
Once the stem is ready, you can move further and design alternatives. These tips will be beneficial to you:
Limit the number of alternatives. Never use more than five alternatives for a single question. Mind that four-choice items are as effective as three or five. It is due to the complexity of creating a plausible distractor.
Ensure the MCQ has only one best answer. Do not practice the situation when the MCQ has a few correct answers, which is better than others. It is an absolutely wrong approach. Other options must be totally incorrect in the user context.
Make sure that distractors are credible. When the distractors are unbelievable, students will easily pick up the right answer even if they have a little knowledge as it would be obvious. All distractions should contain the same keys and have identical lengths. Let’s see:
Istanbul Counselling Services offer visiting the workshops about:
- *Study skills
- Fishing skills
- Fire safety and prevention
- Football refereeing
The students will not select the options b, c, or d, even if they do not know what you are asking about. A better MCQ would have a credible connection between stem and distractors:
Istanbul Counselling Services offer visiting the workshops about:
- Painting skills
- Preparing for giving birth to a child
- *Study skills
- Economics research
Make all choices grammatically agreed with the stem. It would be helpful if you read stem and all choices aloud to ensure that they are grammatically correct.
Put the choices in a purposeful order. If it is possible, try to place the option in chronological, numerical, or conceptual order. The question that is structured well doesn’t present any difficulties with answering it. For instance:
During what period was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, a president of the USA?
Distribute the proper response randomly. The whole test must have an equal number of correct answers, which are a-d (if you design four-option questions).
Do not include the choice “All of the above.” If the students start to read the options and find the first one correct, then in most cases, they tick “All of the above,” making a big mistake.
While writing multiple-choice questions, you are recommended to mix the answers instead of placing all right options under a or c, for example. Once you have finished designing the test, review all answers and make sure they are still answerable. It would be helpful if somebody else will look through your test and say another point of view. This way, you will be able to improve the weak places and come up with an improved version.
A well-designed test with multiple-choice questions is not a miracle but a reality. The test items always address significant content and have a stem with understandable questions. Also, it presents only good answer options. Designing a question with these elements included is not hard at all. For this, you should follow the tips mentioned above and avoid common mistakes. However, if you still do not understand how a proper multiple choice question must look and what alternatives will be the most relevant to it, then get in touch with an experienced writing company. The experts will design a clear, efficient test to evaluate the students’ knowledge to perform any other analysis. Multiple-choice questions are a great tool in skillful hands, so it is better to entrust their creation to more competent specialists if you have any doubts.