Improving Multiple-Choice Questions

Posted By Doug Peterson

I’ve heard a lot of criticisms of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) over the years.

For instance:

  • They really only test recall, not true understanding
  • They test reading comprehension as much, if not more so, than they test actual knowledge
  • They’re unfair to people with dyslexia
  • They imprint incorrect answers in the learner’s brain, which may be recalled in error at some point in the future
  • It’s easy to infer the correct answer from the recognition of keywords or the length of answers

But many of these problems might not be so much because of MCQs by definition: they may be due to  poorly written MCQs!

Let’s face it – we all know that MCQs are pretty much the most-used question type on the planet. Why?

  • They’re easy to use – they work online, on paper, etc.
  • They’re easy to score
    • Completely objective – anyone can do it
    • Easy to automate with bubble sheets and scanners

Given the popularity of multiple-choice questions, we can always do with good advice about how to improve them!

The latest issue of Learning Solutions Magazine has a very well-written article on writing better MCQs. It’s by Mike Dickinson and it’s called Writing Multiple-Choice Questions for Higher-level Thinking. Mr. Dickinson presents several effective techniques for writing better MCQs that I believe you’ll find to be very useful if you use MCQs in your assessments.

2 Responses to “Improving Multiple-Choice Questions”

  1. Regina says:

    Good insight and practical. Thank You very much for sharing.
    Opened up my mind on MCQ.

  2. Nice article. As far as MCQs go, I completely agree with you.
    Trying to go beyond MCQs, I came across a question on the topic of median.
    Please see my posting MCQs vs Virtual manipulatives at
    http://bit.ly/tsTBCn.

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