An academic research paper (Palmer and Devitt, 2007) discussed multiple choice questions in a very positive light:
“Well-constructed peer reviewed multiple choice questions meet may of the educational requirements and advocate that this format be considered seriously when assessing students ”
Some may doubt the validity of this paper, as it is over a decade old. However newer studies agree with that well-crafted multiple-choice tests and quizzes are of benefit to staff and students alike (Abdulghani et al., 2017)
Indeed the ‘wrong’ answers in a multiple choice test have their own jargon (“distractors”), even questions have their own name (“stem”). However, what is absolutely clear is that we need to develop our questions to test higher levels of cognitive reasoning to discriminate between high and low achieving students.
Xu, Kauerand Tupy (Xu, Kauer and Tupy, 2016)feel there are ways to optimise the development of multiple-choice questions. These ideas are summarised below:
✓When formulating your tests you should consider the following improvements:
✓Develop questions that test higher order thinking
✓Discourage guessing from students, and tell students before hand what is being tested
✓Learn from your exams by analysing question results
✓Use clearly written questions that cover a range of topics
✓Use questions that test the taught content
✓Plan feedback to be immediate, or delayed depending on the context. Consider instant✓digital feedback using computing resources
✓Give students the chance to self-correct
✓Utilise students opinions on the tests you set
✓Avoid negative questions (pick the option that is NOT…) and all /none of the above questions
✓Use 3-choice items
✓Avoid difficult to understand answers like A and B, not C
✓Choices should be similar in length
✓Questions should be as short as possible
✓Randomize answer positions
✓Help students to understand why cheating does not help them
✓Randomize question order and answer positions to minimize cheating, and change the questions each year
So using multiple choice questions is a good idea, but only if we do them well. We need to think about how we will develop them to be beneficial for both students and teachers.
Abdulghani, H., Irshad, M., Haque, S., Ahmad, T., Sattar, K. and Khalil, M. (2017). Effectiveness of longitudinal faculty development programs on MCQs items writing skills: A follow-up study. PLOS ONE, 12(10), p.e0185895.
Palmer, E. and Devitt, P. (2007). Assessment of higher order cognitive skills in undergraduate education: modified essay or multiple choice questions? Research paper. BMC Medical Education, 7(1).
Xu, X., Kauer, S. and Tupy, S. (2016). Multiple-choice questions: Tips for optimizing assessment in-seat and online. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 2(2), pp.147-158.