12 Tips for Writing Good Test Questions

Posted by Joan Phaup

Writing effective questions takes time and practice. Whether your goal is to measure knowledge and skills, survey opinions and attitudes or enhance a learning experience, poorly worded questions can adversely affect the quality of the results.

I’ve gleaned the following tips for writing and reviewing questions from Questionmark’s learning resources:

1. Keep stems and statements as short as possible and use clear, concise language.toolbox
2. Use questions whenever possible (What, Who, When, Where, Why and How).
3. Maintain grammatical consistency to avoid cueing.
4. List choices in a logical order.
5. Avoid negatives, especially double negatives.
6. Avoid unnecessary modifiers, especially absolutes (e.g. always, never, etc.).
7. Avoid “All of the above” and use of “None of the above” with caution.
8. Avoid vague pronouns (e.g. it, they).
9. Avoid conflicting alternatives.
10. Avoid syllogistic reasoning choices (e.g. “both a and b are correct”) unless absolutely necessary.
11. Avoid providing cues to correct answer in the stem.
12. Avoid providing clues to the answer of one question in another question.

If you would like more information about writing question and assessments, a good place to start is the Questionmark Learning Cafe.

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