Multiple-choice questions are a method of assessment that asks students to select one choice from a given list. They typically have three parts: a stem, the correct answer – called the key, and several wrong answers, called distractors. Multiple-choice questions are most widely used for measuring knowledge, comprehension, and application of learning outcomes.
There are a number of different ways multiple-choice questions can be presented. The classic approach is the simple stem question or completion format followed by options. Two other approaches to presenting multiple-choice questions are the:
- Highly structured.
- Good at measuring student achievement
- Incorrect alternatives provide diagnostic information.
- Scores are less influenced by guessing than true-false questions.
- Scores are more reliable than open-ended questions (e.g., essays).
- Scoring is easy and reliable.
- Question analysis can reveal how difficult each question was and how well it discriminated between the strong and weaker students in the class
- Performance can be compared from class to class and year to year
- Can cover a lot of material very efficiently
- Avoids the absolute judgments found in True-False tests.
- Constructing good questions is time consuming.
- Difficult to find plausible distractors.
- Ineffective for measuring some types of problem solving.
- Scores can be influenced by reading ability.
- Difficult to determine why individual students selected incorrect responses.
- Often fails to test higher levels of cognitive thinking.
- Does not provide a measure of writing ability.
- May encourage guessing.
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