3 Parts Of A Multiple-Choice Question – Constructing Effective Assessment Items

grade-156087_150Today, I want to talk about writing effective assessment items. Not only that assessments draw attention to the most important elements of the course, but they also measure the extent to which learners have mastered learning objectives, help learners identify their strengths and weaknesses and keep track of learners’ progress.

In order to be truly effective, assessment items must cover course objectives, be valid and reliable, and have correctly written stems, distractors, and feedback. Application questions are typically better than recall items as they promote higher-order learning.

In this post, I will talk about the most popular type of assessments, a multiple-choice question. Multiple-choice questions require learners to choose the best response from several options. They are typically composed of three parts:

  • question stems,
  • correct answer or answers, and
  • distractors.

Question stems can include either complete direct questions such as, What is a Multiple choice question? or statement completions items, such as, Multiple-choice questions are …. When writing question stems, instructional designers should try to keep them short and, whenever possible, choose complete direct questions over statement completion items as longer stems can be easily misinterpreted. Therefore, the results gathered from such questions will not be accurate indicators of learning, and the question itself will not be reliable. If the question is in the incomplete statement format, the stem must end with a word common to all answer options so that each option flows logically from it. Consider the example below:

 The role of an eLearning designer is to design:

a.  graphics

b.  courses

c.  houses

d.  clothes

As you can see, instead of repeating the word design in each option, that word was included in the question stem. While most incomplete question stems should have a verb, instructional designers should consider the grammatical structure of both stems and answer options when constructing assessments.

In the next post, we will talk more about writing effective assessment items.

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