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Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice test items


Nodes of Ranvier are located on
a.    a dendrite.
b.    an axon.
c.    a soma.
d.    an axon button.

  • Avoid statements that fail to present a complete thought or question.
  • Avoid stems that ask for a series of multiple true-false answers. (eg.  Avoid: “Which of the following is true about….?”)
  • Eliminate excessive wording and irrelevant information.
  • Include in each stem any word/s that might otherwise be repeated in each alternative.
  • Use negatively stated stems sparingly. When used, underline and/or capitalize the negative word.
  • When using incomplete statements, avoid beginning with the blank space.
  • Use straight-forward, familiar language.  (Unless you use them in class, terms like raison d’etre, per se, obviate, egregious, doth, methinks, perchance - and other less used words in English - may complicate matters!)
  • Provide sufficient information in the stem to allow students to respond to the question.
  • Make sure there is one correct or best response.
  • Make all alternatives plausible and equally attractive to both less-knowledgeable and skillful students.
  • Minimize the use of the all-of-the-above and none-of-the-above alternatives.
  • Use between three and five alternatives for each item.
  • All alternatives should be approximately equal in length.
  • Make alternatives parallel in construction and consistent with the stem.
  • When possible, present alternatives in some logical order (eg. most to least and chronological).
  • Make the alternatives mutually exclusive.
  • Avoid overly wordy alternatives that become confusing and difficult to read.
  • Avoid irrelevant cues such as grammatical structure, well-known word associations, or connections between the stem and the correct answer. (See the placement of a and an in the example multiple choice item at the beginning of this section).
  • Avoid language that may offend or exclude a particular group of individuals.
  • Randomly distribute the correct response items among the alternative positions throughout the test, having approximately the same proportion of a’s,  b’s,  c’s,  d’s, and e’s as the correct response.


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