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# How to create multiple choice questions

## by Jennifer Morrow, Associate Professor of Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement at University of Tennessee on Sep 22, 2011

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This powerpoint goes over Bloom's Taxonomy and how to write multiple choice questions that fit each of the taxonomies

This powerpoint goes over Bloom's Taxonomy and how to write multiple choice questions that fit each of the taxonomies

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• Some people simplify this taxonomy into 3 subcategories: 1) Understanding (knowledge and comprehension) 2) Application 3) Higher-order cognitive objectives (analysis, synthesis, and evaluation)
• Answer to #1: D – Providence
• Correct Answer: C – I think, therefore I am
• Correct Answer: D – 62.5%
• Correct Answer: A – internal, external
• Correct Answer: C – Both A & B
• Correct Answer: B - Great

## How to create multiple choice questionsPresentation Transcript

• HOW TO CREATE MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTIONS JENNIFER ANN MORROW, PH.D.
• What is a multiple choice question(MCQ)?
• According to Clegg and Cashin (1986), a multiple choice question contains three elements:
• Item stem : this is the problem statement. It contains all the information necessary to answer the multiple choice question.
• Correct option : this is the correct answer to the multiple choice question.
• Distractors : these are the incorrect answers presented as alternatives to the correct answer in a multiple choice question.
• Sample Multiple Choice Question
• What is the name of the presenter today?
• A. Dr. Marrow
• B. Dr. Martin
• C. Dr. Morrow
• D. Dr. Morton
• Item stem: “What is the name of the presenter today?”
• Correct answer: C. Dr. Morrow
• Distractors: A, B, & D
• Easy to score
• Can tap in to different cognitive levels (see Bloom’s Taxonomy)
• Useful for diagnosing student difficulties (e.g., when you use common errors as distractors)
• Provides an excellent basis for post-test discussion (you should discuss why distractors are wrong)
• Requires relatively little time to answer
• Items are open to misinterpretation by students
• It can be time-consuming to construct “good” test items
• It is difficult to create questions that tap in to higher levels of learning (i.e., Evaluation)
• Creativity cannot easily be tested
• Students may find that items are too picky
• They encourage guessing
• Bloom’s Taxonomy
• B.S. Bloom and colleagues (1956) created a taxonomy which divides cognitive objectives into a hierarchy of subdivisions from the easiest to the most complex.
• Bloom’s Taxonomy
• Knowledge
• Comprehension
• Application
• Analysis
• Synthesis
• Evaluation
• Knowledge
• This is defined as the remembering of previously learned material. This is the lowest level of learning.These are the easiest types of MCQs to create.
• Learning objectives at this level
• Know common terms, Know specific facts
• Know methods and procedures, Know basic concepts
• Know principles
• Question verbs: define, list, state, identify, label, name, who? when? where? what?
• MCQ: Knowledge
• What is the capital of Rhode Island?
• Central Falls
• Middletown
• Portsmouth
• Providence
• Comprehension
• This is defined as the ability to grasp the meaning of material.You can have respondents do the following:Translate material from one form to another, Interpret material, Estimate future trends
• Learning objectives at this level
• Understand facts and principles
• Interpret verbal material
• Translate verbal material to mathematical formulae
• Estimate future consequences applied in data
• Question verbs: Explain, predict, interpret, infer, summarize, convert, translate, give example, account for, paraphrase x ?
• MCQ: Comprehension
• Explain what is meant by the phrase “cogito ergo sum”?
• I know, therefore I am
• I am, therefore I know
• I think, therefore I am
• I am, therefore I think
• Application
• This refers to the ability to use learned material in new and concrete situations. Here you have to apply rules, methods, concepts, principles, laws, and/or theories.
• Learning objectives at this level
• Apply concepts and principles to new situations
• Apply laws and theories to practical situations
• Solve mathematical problems
• Question verbs: How could x be used to y ? How would you show, make use of, modify, demonstrate, solve, or apply x to conditions y ?
• MCQ: Application
• If you have 8 \$100 bills and you spend \$200 on shoes and \$100 on books what % of the original amount of money do you have left?
• 24.5%
• 37.5%
• 62.5%
• 86.5%
• Analysis
• This refers to the ability to break down material into its component parts so that its organizational structure may be understood.
• Learning objectives at this level
• Recognize unstated assumptions
• Recognize logical fallacies in reasoning
• Distinguish between facts and inferences
• Evaluate the relevancy of data
• Question verbs: Differentiate, compare / contrast, distinguish x from y, how does x affect or relate to y? why? how? What piece of x is missing / needed?
• MCQ: Analysis
• Compared to laboratory settings, field settings have more ______ validity and less ______ validity.
• internal, external
• construct, content
• external, internal
• content, construct
• Synthesis
• This refers to the ability to put parts together to form a new whole.
• Learning objectives at this level
• Write a well organized theme
• Propose a plan for an experiment
• Integrate learning from different areas into a plan for solving a problem
• Formulates a new scheme for classifying objects
• Question verbs: Design, construct, develop, formulate, imagine, create, change, write a short story and label the following elements:
• MCQ: Synthesis
• Change the below research scenario to make it a design that will allow you to show cause and effect and be able to generalize to a larger population.
• Dr. Smith is conducting a study looking a differences in sense of belonging of first-year students. He is comparing two groups of students: Learning community and Traditional students. Students self-select into the above groups.
• Use random assignment to groups
• Use random selection of participants
• Both A & B
• None of the above
• Evaluation
• This is concerned with the ability to judge the value of material for a given purpose. This is the highest level of learning.
• Learning objectives at this level
• Judge the logical consistency of written material
• Judge the value of a work
• Judge the adequacy with which conclusions are supported by data
• Question verbs: Justify, appraise, evaluate, judge x according to given criteria. Which option would be better/preferable to party y ?
• MCQ: Evaluation
• Evaluate the strength of research design described below:
• Dr. Arnold randomly assigns 100 students who have elected to be in her study on pilot training. She controls for various confounding variables in her study. She utilizes a pretest- posttest control group design.
• Excellent, it has high internal and external validity
• Great, it has high internal validity and moderate external validity
• Good, it has moderate internal validity and moderate external validity
• Poor, it has low levels of both internal and external validity
• Rules for Writing MCQs
• Haladyna & Downing (1989) developed a set of rules one should follow when constructing MCQs. Some of them are:
• Balance the key – this refers to where you place the correct answer in the response choices. You should vary where you place the correct answer.
• Avoid the use of “None of the Above” – research has shown that these type of questions are more difficult and less reliable.
• Rules for Writing MCQs (cont.)
• Avoid complex multiple choice items – you should not have complex response options that combine many smaller items or phrases (e.g., a. 1, 2, 3; b. 1 and 3; c. 2 and 4…).
• Keep the length of responses options fairly consistent – all of your response options should be approximately the same length so students can’t easily figure out the correct answer just by looking at the length of the response.
• Rules for Writing MCQs (cont.)
• Avoid grammatical clues – don’t use any grammatical clues that will let students know which is the correct answer (e.g., use a/an and not just the one for the correct answer).
• Avoid the use of humor when developing options – you should not use humor when constructing your distractors. This eliminates a response right away.
• Rules for Writing MCQs (cont.)
• Keep the stem simple – don’t add extra information to the stem to fill up space and/or confuse students.
• Avoid using negative phrasing in the stem – don’t use negative phrases such as never, not, etc. in the stem. If you have to use negative phrasing then bold or capitalize the negative word.
• Rules for Writing MCQs (cont.)
• Use plausible distractors – all of you options should be logical and related to the material you are trying to test. Don’t put in foolish or nonsense distractors.
• Avoid using “All of the Above” – research shows that this type of question is more difficult and less discriminating.
• Avoid the option “I don’t know” – research shows that this is not a valid option.
• Rules for Writing MCQs (cont.)
• Each item should ask only one question – keep the stem simple. Don’t make it possible for students to correctly check more than one answer.
• Use simple terminology or terminology that students should know – spell out acronyms and/or define difficult-to-understand terms.
• Underline, italicize, or use bold print to draw attention to important terms – use this especially if you include negative words in the stem.
• Additional Tips for Creating MCQs
• Limit the number of options – use 3 or 4 options. Avoid using 2 or more than 4.
• Don’t lift phrases directly from the text or lecture – this encourages simple recall and not understanding.
• Make sure questions are not culturally biased or contain sexist terminology – avoid using phrases that could be construed as racist or sexist (e.g., calling women girls), or which have a cultural bias.
• Additional Tips for Creating MCQs
• Write the correct answer before creating the distractors .
• Include only one correct or best answer – don’t have multiple correct answers that students can choose from.
• Put responses vertically below the stem – this makes it easier to read.
• Avoid unnecessary repetition in the response options – if every response starts with the phrase “in the” then put “in the” as part of the stem.
• MOST IMPORTANT RULE HAVE OTHERS REVIEW YOUR QUESTIONS – IF POSSIBLE GET FEEDBACK FROM MORE THAN ONE PERSON. WORK IN TEAMS AND CRITIQUE EACH OTHERS QUESTIONS
• Assignment for 9/22
• Create 6 multiple questions based on Dr. Whittecar’s theme readings. Create 2 questions that could be classified as either Knowledge or Comprehension questions, 2 questions that could be classified as Application questions, and 2 questions that could be classified as Analysis, Synthesis, or Evaluation questions.
• Bring a typed copy of these to class with you on 9/22.
•