Question checklist (multiple choice questions)

Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 15 Sep 2017

Poorly written multiple choice questions are not only useless, but they can also actually confuse students and even misinform. In some instances, although the question is well written, it concerns a topic that is so esoteric as to be a waste of time. So before you even begin to write multiple choice questions ask yourself the following most important questions:

  • Is the knowledge being tested important?

Once you have written a question about a worthwhile topic, it is worth running through the following checklist to ensure that your question is appropriate. 

  • stem and lead-in
    • can it be shortened?
    • ideally, does it pass the cover test?
    • is the lead-in clear?
    • does it follow grammatically into all alternatives?
    • can you include repeating words from the answers?
    • have you avoided acronyms?
  • image choice and preparation
    • are the images clear and show the abnormality/structure?
    • is the image needed to answer the question?
    • if they are bespoke images, have you used the PowerPoint/Keynote templates?
  • alternatives
    • are they plausible?
    • is one answer unambiguously the only right one?
    • can they be shortened?
    • are they testing the same topic (homogeneous)?
    • have you avoided clues (repeated words, etc)?
    • are measurements consistent and different enough to make one answer definitely the correct one?
    • ideally, have you avoided acronyms?
    • are they logically ordered? (e.g. A-Z, increasing, regionally)
  • explanation
    • in most instances, have you explained why the correct answer is the correct one? 
    • in many instances, have you explained why the distractors are incorrect?
    • if an image is included, is the original case credited in the explanation?
  • related articles
    • have you included relevant articles not just for the correct answer but also the distractors?
    • do the related articles support the question and answer? (if not you need to edit the article)

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