writing more effective test questions March 2

Making Multiple-Choice Exams Better

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The relatively new Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology journal has a great feature called a “Teacher-Ready Research Review.” The examples I’ve read so far are well organized, clearly written, full of practical implications, and well referenced. This one on multiple-choice tests (mostly the questions on those tests) is no exception. Given our strong reliance on this test type, a regular review of common practices in light of research is warranted.


multiple-choice tests February 21

Multiple-Choice Tests: Revisiting the Pros and Cons

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Given class sizes, teaching loads, and a host of other academic responsibilities, many teachers feel as though multiple-choice tests are the only viable option. Their widespread use justifies a regular review of those features that make these tests an effective way to assess learning and ongoing consideration of those features that compromise how much learning they promote.


February 5, 2017

30 Tips for Writing Good Multiple-Choice Questions

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Multiple-choice tests don’t get much respect. Maybe it’s because they’re associated with memorization, old-fashioned standardized tests, and other situations in which the answer is likely to be “C.”

Yet when properly designed, multiple-choice tests can be a vital addition to your testing tool box. Outlined here are 30 tips for writing good multiple-choice questions.

All the suggestions that follow stem from two basic precepts:

  • Remove all barriers that will keep a knowledgeable student from getting the item right.
  • Remove all clues that will help a less-than-knowledgeable student get the item right.

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erasing test answers November 30, 2016

Writing Better Multiple-Choice Questions

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Eleven years ago, I discovered a life-changing pedagogy called team-based learning. It let me do things in large classrooms that I didn't think was possible. I found that the key to successful team-based learning was writing really good multiple-choice questions. I would like to look at the multiple-choice format overall, including some of the vocabulary we use when looking at the literature on writing multiple-choice questions.

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October 6, 2014

Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Multiple-Choice Questions

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The goal of any well-constructed test is to test students’ expertise on a topic and not their test-taking skills. We need to eliminate as many flaws in our questions as we can to “provide a level playing field for testwise and not-so-testwise students. The probability of answering a question correctly should relate to an examinee’s expertise on the topic and should not relate to their expertise on test-taking strategies.” (NMBE, 2001, p 19)


March 5, 2014

Tips for Writing Good Multiple-Choice Questions

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I remember with horror and embarrassment the first multiple-choice exam I wrote. I didn’t think the students were taking my course all that seriously, so I decided to use the first exam to show just how substantive the content really was. I wrote long, complicated stems and followed them with multiple answer options and various combinations of them. And it worked. Students did poorly on the exam. I was pleased until I returned the test on what turned out to be one of the longest class periods of my teaching career. I desperately needed the advice that follows here.


February 26, 2014

Examining Your Multiple-Choice Questions

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As Ron Berk (known for his pithy humor) observes, the multiple-choice question “holds world records in the categories of most popular, most unpopular, most used, most misused, most loved and most hated.” According to one source I read, multiple-choice questions were first used around the time of World War I to measure the abilities of new Army recruits. As class sizes have grown and the demands on teacher time expanded, they have become the favorite testing tool in higher education.