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How to write a multiple-choice question task

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Answering multiple choice questions on a computer

Multiple choice questions are one of the most widespread forms of checking academic progress and achievements of students in schools, colleges, and universities. Besides, it is the main tool for testing knowledge in distance learning, which is especially topical in 2020. Even though multiple-choice questions (also called MCQs) may seem quite easy to work on, this is actually one of the most difficult academic tasks.

What does creating MCQs imply?

Basically, creating multiple choice questions implies putting down a few questions with one or several correct answers listed underneath. You should not necessarily write questions. Sometimes these can be mathematical equations, analogies, or incomplete statements – whatever you can list a few potential answers/solutions for. The type of MCQs you should choose will mostly depends on the subject you are creating them for, so it would be useful to check some examples of questions and answers that are more common for your specific subject.

Why create MCQs?

MCQs are quite effective when it comes to assessing undergraduate students. Here are some facts about multiple choice questions as an academic task:

  • Many professors and researchers in the field of education believe that MCQs can really facilitate the learning process for the school students.
  • MCQs are easier to grade and the grading can be automatized (even in Google Forms!).
  • Multiple-choice questions help to get a deeper understanding of the subject as well as strengthen students’ memory and long-term retention when given regularly.
  • MCQs may vary in complexity and size and can be used for almost any subject in any educational institution.

When working different types of multiple choice questions, you also have an opportunity to develop your logical abilities. You have to analyze various facts to come up with the most appropriate questions for the task. Additionally, it is important to check whether there is something common in the answers you list and whether something shows that only one answer is correct. Therefore, whether you are writing or solving MCQs, you learn a lot.

Types of MCQs

There are actually dozens of types of this assignment, but we will consider the most essential of them:

  • Single select multiple choice questions. This is literally a question with only one right answer. A complexity of answers in such a case can be regulated by changing the level of similarity of answers.
  • Multi select multiple choice questions. In this case, there can be more than 1 answer. Teachers usually give a hint how many right answers there should be.
  • True or False. This type definitely does not require any special presentation. You’ve encountered such questions since secondary school.
  • Odd one out. Here, you need to list several answers and ask the students to choose the one which does not fit the general picture.
  • Best answer. This type of MCQs is rather difficult to cope with, as there might be a couple of answers that seem right.
  • Negative questions. It is literally a question in which a student is required to find the answer, which is incorrect. By the way, it is the type of MCQs where students make mistakes most often just because they do not carefully read the essence of the question. Therefore, it is better to highlight the part that might be easily misread, e.g., “Choose the INCORRECT

How to make multiple choice questions?

The main purpose of answering multiple choice questions is to make the process of scoring marks easier and take some pressure off people who have to take such tests since there is always a correct answer in the given options. MCQs are often used as a base for educational tests, elections, market research, and when choosing between various options.

In order to master your multiple choice questions writing skills, you have to gather quality components and make sure that tasks are clear as MCQs might include a lot of other elements, such as diagrams for conducting analyses, quotations taken from various published sources for better understanding and developing of evaluation skills, additional pictures and tables, figures, and charts which require interpretation.

As long as you make the questions clear, and there is a definite right answer that can be easily found by a knowledgeable person, you are in the good. If you want to make the assignment more interesting, you can add funny examples or visuals if applicable. You can always check how good your creation is by testing your friends or family members first.

What about multiple choice format?

A multiple-choice question consists of two parts: a stem that is actually the question and a set of possible answers. There also should be some distractors, which are the answers that only seem right but, if read carefully, are quite obviously wrong. Usually, there are 4-5 answers in each question. Although, there are some exceptions such as a true or false task.

Tips forwriting multiple choice questions

Here are a few things you need to consider when designing multiple choice questions:

  • Start constructing the task with the correct answer. Clearly mark it for yourself to later differentiate it from the other options.
  • Define your purpose. What do you want to achieve by creating a test? Having answered this question, you will determine the type and content of the assignment.
  • Don’t overcomplicate the tasks. The question should be simple and clear. Try not to write long and complex sentences. The maximum word count is 20.
  • Avoid ambiguous and vague wording. Always make sure that your question cannot be interpreted in various ways, which makes it impossible to be answered correctly.
  • Do not use words such as “at least,” “approximately,” etc. if you are dealing with hard sciences. Also, when crafting MCQs, avoid the words “sometimes,” “often,” “always,” “little,” “more,” etc. Such words have a subjective meaning and can lead to erroneous answers.
  • Try not to use negation in the body of the question or highlight it if you do.
  • Mind that the distractors should not be too obvious so that the student can simply guess the answer.
  • Note that the correct answers and distractors should match in content, structure, and total word count.
  • The question and the answers should differ in font and space. For example, a question might be boldened, and the answer not.
  • When alternating the correct answers, mind that there should not be an explicit system in the answers. In computer testing, this problem usually does not exist because the computer automatically shuffles the alternatives.
  • Be careful with asking tricky questions. Most likely, even the most capable or knowledgeable students will be misled if the phrasing is strange.

As soon as you finish creating your test, proofread it to eliminate any mistakes and make sure that each question contains the correct answer.

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