Basic factual questions
Factual questions relate to a single item of factual knowledge, with or without an image. They draw from a single area of knowledge and require no interpretation. They can be of varying difficulty, from very simple that all medical students should know to esoteric tidbits only subspecialty consultants with a penchant for trivia will be aware of.
They are the easiest questions to write and if you are not practised at composing multiple-choice questions, these are the best ones to start with.
Factual questions are particularly helpful as a study aid, as they help students identify areas where their knowledge is lacking. They are not, however, good examination questions, and most well-written exams will have few if any of this type of question.
Factual questions may be text only or include an image.
Text only questions
In text only factual questions you should aim to assess a single confined item of knowledge. The stem and lead-in are almost always short. Ideally, negative questions should be avoided, although in some instances these are permissible (see example 4 below).
- Example 1: What is the typical T2 signal intensity of epidermoid cysts?
- Example 2: Which of the following is a classification system for renal cysts?
- Example 3: What is the third branch of the external carotid artery?
- Example 4: Which of the following medulloblastoma subgroups is LEAST common?
Image based questions
Factual questions with an image are particularly useful in assessing anatomy knowledge. Importantly, if the question relates to the appearance of pathology, even if considered basic knowledge, they should be marked as image interpretation questions.
The following examples are the stem and lead-in of typical factual questions with an image:
- Example 1: In this CT image, what is the structure indicated by the arrow? (see figure 1)
- Example 2: In the accompanying image from a CT the middle cerebral artery is indicated by which letter? (see figure 2)
Using a standard format for the images is essential. Please download PowerPoint (Windows and macOS) and Keynote (macOS) from the following links:
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