Top Ten Tips for developing MCQs

Bull and McKenna (1999) describe a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) as a question with a ‘choose from a list’ of options answers. Moodle and Clickers provide opportunities to develop, deliver, mark and feedback on formative exercises for consolidation of knowledge and summative assessments.

We have produced the ten top tips to help you in creating more effective and challenging Multiple Choice Questions.

MCQ Terms

Before we start here is a guide to the terminology used in developing an MCQ.

Stem The text of the question
Key The right answer
Distracter The incorrect answers
Options The list of answers which includes the key and the distracters.

Top Ten Tips

  1. The text of each question (stem) should be presented as a clear statement or question that does not give any clue to the answer. (e.g. do not use ‘an’ at the end of the stem if only one of your options begins with a vowel) (Bull and McKenna, 1999)
  2. The stem should be presented in a positive form. Use negatives sparingly and if you need to use negatives ensure they are highlighted (bold and CAPITALISE) (Bull and McKenna, 1999, UKCLE, 2010)
  3. The incorrect answers (distracters) must be plausible. Implausible distracters can ruin a good question. Higgins and Tatham (2003) use the following example to highlight this point.

Which US state was the third state to accede to the Union in 1787?

  • New Cardy
  • New Woolly
  • New Jersey
  • New Jumper
  1. Avoid the choices “All of the above” and “None of the above” in your options. If you need to use them, make sure that they appear as right answers some of the time. (Bull and McKenna, 1999) Be extra careful of these options if you are randomising answer options with Moodle as these choices may appear on the top of the list and confuse students.
  2. Effective distracters are options that address common misconceptions or are statements which are only partially correct. Don’t confuse students who know the right answer by creating a distracter that is too close to the correct answer. (CAA Centre 2002)
  3. Extend the MCQ to test application of knowledge by creating a scenario which is new to the students that develops over a series of questions. A great example is provided by UKCLE (2010)
  4. Extend the MCQ to test the students’ analysis and application of knowledge through interpretive exercises which begin with a picture; a passage of text or a series of figures that are followed by a series of questions  that test students’ analysis of the data provided.
  5. Extend the MCQ by designing an assertion reason question. This is a “question [which]consists of two statements, an assertion and a reason. The student must first determine whether each statement is true. If both are true, the student must next determine whether the reason correctly explains the assertion. There is one option for each possible outcome.” (CAA Centre, 2002) Assertion reason questions are commonly used in Prince 2 Project Management qualifications and you can view examples of these on PPC’s Prince 2 training website.
  6. Use the Clickers to increase interaction in-class by posing MCQs. Have a look at YouTube video from Professor Eric Mazur, Harvard University on how he uses Clickers to facilitate peer instruction to promote understanding of key concepts.
  7. Online MCQs can help you to provide effective feedback to your students quickly. You can use your feedback as an opportunity to providing links to additional resources to correct student understanding. (UKCLE, 2010).

References:

Bull, C. and McKenna, J (1999) Designing effective objective test questions: an introductory workshop [online] Available from: http://caacentre.lboro.ac.uk/dldocs/otghdout.pdf (Accessed: 17.3.11)

CAA Centre (2002) CAA Centre Website. [online] Available from: http://www.caacentre.ac.uk/index.shtml (Accessed: 19.4.11)

Higgins, E. and Tatham, L. (2003) Exploring the potential of Multiple-Choice Questions in Assessment [online]Available from:  http://www.celt.mmu.ac.uk/ltia/issue4/higginstatham.shtml  (Accessed 17.3.11)

PPC (2010) PRINCE2 Assertion-Reasoning Questions. [online] Available from: http://www.prince2training.net/component/option,com_madblanks/Itemid,516/mbcsr197configid,3/mid,197/task,showmbmod/ (Accessed: 29.3.11)

UCKLE (2010) How can I write effective MCQs? [online] Available from: http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/resources/assessment-and-feedback/mcqs/ten/ (accessed: 17.3.11)

One Response to Top Ten Tips for developing MCQs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>