Written by Sash Kertes, Learning Designer
We all love writing quiz questions equally as much as we love completing quiz questions, right?
(c) All of the above
If you answered (a), please read on. If you answered (b), please read on. If you answered (c), read the question again.
No matter what you answered, you should be reading this part, unless there’s been an incorrect assumption made by the author of this piece (that is, you stopped reading after the question). Well, instead of making assumptions, it might be safer – and potentially more professional – to keep a few key things in mind when constructing multiple-choice questions for online study.
Which of the following are “key things” to keep in mind when constructing multiple-choice questions for online study?
(a) Base each item on an educational or instructional objective of the course, not on trivial information.
(b) Test a single idea in each item.
(c) Incorporate common errors from learners in distractors (that is, the options in a list that are incorrect).
(d) Randomly vary the position of the correct answer or answers.
(e) Avoid using ‘All of the above’ or ‘None of the above’ as options because they imply what the correct answer might be or “test” what has not been taught and/or learnt; additionally, is the intention to teach someone that ‘The role of the Project Manager is all of the above’?
(f) Be consistent with option length to reduce likelihood of the longest response being the correct response because the response itself involves an element of teaching that was neglected or potentially not possible during the core learning (or something like that).
(g) Avoid double negatives – in fact, avoid negatives such as ‘Which of the following isn’t…’ because your student is trying to learn what’s in the course not what’s not in the course (unless a learning objective is to teach him/her to remember what you haven’t taught).
(h) Avoid excessively long lists.
(i) Avoid grammatical inconsistency between the stem and the options.
(j) Avoid speeling erors.
(k) All of the above.
(l) None of the above.
Additional things to keep in mind
Don’t _________ gap-fill or sentence completion questions because IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC and primary schools around Australia use these question forms to gauge how well the English language has been understood by their respective students. Furthermore, it highlights the lack of clarity this question form provides when testing for comprehension of higher education concepts.
Text input questions
When testing for correct input of text – including the names of people, places, concepts and anything in between – exercise leniency in accepting various spellings because someone’s ‘licence’ to drive may be someone else’s ‘license’ to derive from what has been learnt, and your ‘prioritisation’ for testing the language might be another person’s ‘whatevz’.
True or false?
A statement with a true or false response lacks rigour unless it’s phrased in a way that’s likely to bamboozle and/or confuse unless the statement is read front to back, back to front and several times with eyes both open and closed.
Who knows? Do you know? If you know, and I know, how will I prove to you that I know if you don’t give me a fair chance? If I decide (a), and it’s wrong, will you explain to me why (a) is wrong; I mean, genuinely explain to me why it is not (a) (because I’ve read the question front to back, back to front and several times with eyes both open and closed AND I’ve recalled everything that I’ve learnt so far)?
What about if I choose (b)?
Number input questions
When testing for input of numbers, will there be a need to round up or round down? Will there be a need for commas when the numbers get really big, such as 1,000? And how many decimal places are required to be not only correct, but completely correct?
Looking for some assistance in crafting online quiz questions?
Contact the Learning Enhancement and Innovation team: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some of the technical details of this content were influenced by Writing Good Multiple-Choice Exams Zimmaro, D. (2016).
Sash Kertes is a Learning Designer who works with academic staff to create engaging learning experiences using the edX platform, sharing high-quality University of Adelaide learning experiences with new global audiences.