Which to use? Matching versus pull-down list questions

Posted By Doug Peterson

Matching questions and pull-down list questions look, well, identical, as you can see from these two screen captures:


Matching Question

Pull-down Question

So what are the differences?

When should you use a matching question, and when should you use a pull-down list question?

The answer lies in the behavior differences between the question types.

The matching question type allows an option (the values in the list) to be assigned to one – and only one – choice. I can select “Crackers” as the match for “Cheese”, but if I then try to also select “Crackers” as the match for “Peanut butter”, I will get an error message stating that “Crackers” has already been selected.

If you choose to score per match, this has the advantage of preventing the participant from using the same option for all the choices, which would guarantee they would receive at least some points even if they didn’t know a single match. At the same time, if you choose all-or-nothing scoring, this has the disadvantage of allowing a participant who doesn’t know every match to still get the question correct by process of elimination.

On the other hand, the pull-down list question type allows the same option to be assigned to multiple choices. This does away with the “process of elimination” problem, and also allows two choices to have the same answer. For example, if I wanted “Peanut butter” and “Cheese” to both match with “Crackers”, I could do that with a pull-down list question, but not with a matching question.

Another difference is how the Authoring Manager question wizard behaves for each question type. The matching question wizard prompts you for the choice and its matching option.

This results in the question having the same number of options as choices (remember the “process of elimination” problem?). However, the pull-down list wizard allows you specify as many choices as you want, as many options as you want, and then define the correct option for each choice.

This takes care of the “process of elimination” problem since you can specify more options than choices.

Another difference in the wizards is that the matching question wizard gives you the option of scoring per match or using all-or-nothing scoring, whereas the pull-down list wizard only allows for scoring per match.

But remember – you always have the question editor! If you want more options than choices in a matching question, start the question editor, edit each choice, and add the extra options to each choice’s list of options. If you want your pull-down list question to use all-or-nothing scoring, you can edit the outcomes in the question editor to make that happen. And if you’re really adventurous, you can use the editor to create different option lists for each choice in either question type!

Click here to learn more about these and other question types.

3 Responses to Which to use? Matching versus pull-down list questions

  1. Karin says:

    Good day
    I am looking for a description of the difference between the Question Wizard and the Question Editor. I am compiling a document for our authors and would like to indicate to them in which cases you will start using the editor vs the wizard (as you cannot open a question in the Wizard once you have opened it in the Editor)

  2. Doug Peterson says:

    Hello Karin,

    The Question Wizard is where everything starts, and is used to author the basic question. From that point on, the Question Wizard can be used for minor editing – an update to the stimulus, correct a spelling error in one of the choices, etc. It can be used for adding more choices to a multiple choice, more options to a pull-down list, things like that.

    The Question Editor is used for more intricate editing. For example, you may want to add some Boolean (“and” and “or”) conditions to an outcome to allow for two acceptable answers, which you may not be able to do in the Question Wizard. Another example might be the Select a Blank question – the Wizard only allows you to define one blank, but you can use the Editor to define more blanks (and corresponding outcomes) as needed. And of course, only the Editor allows you to add outcomes like Always Happens, Anything Else, and Not Answered.

    Kind regards,


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