Multiple choice questions, which are also referred to as selected response or fixed-choice items, require that students should identify the correct answers from the set of possible variants or options provided to them by their teachers. It is worth noting that possible answers are referred as "fixed" beforehand rather than just left open for a student to provide or generate it himself/herself.
The advantage or benefit of such items is that they can easily and quickly be scored, providing quick and prompt feedback to students and enabling effective and productive ways to assess lots of students over a diverse range of needed content. It should be stressed that one drawback or disadvantage is that preparing good and thorough multiple-choice tasks usually takes plenty of time and efforts, especially if a teacher or professor is completing questions to test or check students' analytical and critical thinking.
Multiple choice questions assignments can be an efficient and effective way so as to assess students' learning outcomes and results. Multiple choice questions tasks have several advantages, such as:
Reliability: can be defined as a degree to which a writing test measures student's learning outcome consistently. Multiple choice questions tests are less susceptible and responsive to guessing rather than true or false questions assignments, thus making them a more reliable and sound means of students' assessment. The reliability is always enhanced in case the number of multiple choice questions concentrated on a single and unique learning goal is increased. Additionally, the objective and unbiased scoring associated with the multiple choice test tasks makes free them from different problems with the inconsistency of the scorer that can impact scoring of the written assignments.
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Versatility: Multiple choice questions tasks may be worked out to assess various levels of the learning outcomes of the students. When working on such tasks, students are supposed to choose from a set of possible answers provided by the teacher; however, there are evident limits on what may be checked or tested with the help of multiple choice questions tasks. For instance, they are an ineffective and inefficient way to test or check the ability of the students to organize and present their thoughts, considerations, explanations, or ideas.
Validity: is defined as a degree to which a writing test can measure the learning outcomes it is supposed to measure. Because students can usually give answers to multiple choice questions tasks much faster than the essay written questions, tests anchored on multiple choice questions can make emphasis on a relatively wide representation of term, course or semester material or information, thus increasing the assessment validity.
The key to applying advantage of the above-mentioned strengths is, however, the construction of fascinating multiple choice questions tasks.
A multiple choice question task comprises a problem or an issue, referred as the stem, as well as the list of the proposed solutions, referred as possible alternatives. Such alternatives include one best or correct alternative, which is the right answer, as well as inferior or incorrect alternatives, referred as distracters.
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Completing an Effective and Efficient Stem
- Consider that the stem needs to be meaningful and understandable by itself, as well as is to present a specific problem or issue. A stem, which presents a specific problem or issue, makes emphasis on the learning outcome. If a stem does not present a certain problem or issue, it may turn out to be very complicated to test the ability of students to get inferences from bizarre descriptions rather to serve as a more direct written test of the learning outcome achievement of the students.
- The stem is not supposed to comprise an irrelevant or odd material, which may decrease the validity and reliability of the scores of the written tests.
- The stem is supposed to be stated negatively only when essential learning outcomes do require doing this. Students usually have difficulties in comprehending options provided with negative or strange phrasing. In case an important learning outcome requires that negative phrasing is provided, the negative component should be stressed with capitalization or italics.
- The stem is supposed to be a partial sentence or a question. Question stems are preferable as they allow the students to concentrate on giving answers to the questions rather than keeping a partial sentence in their memory and filling it out with every alternative or option provided. The cognitive load is increased when the stems are designed with an interior blank, which should, by all means, be avoided.
Completing Effective and Efficient Alternatives or Options
- All alternatives are supposed to be plausible and reasonable. The function and purpose of the incorrect options or alternatives is to play the role of as distracters, which is to be chosen by the students who fail to achieve the decent learning outcome but to be ignored by those who achieved the best learning outcome only possible. An implausible alternative does not serve as a functional distracter and thus should not be utilized. Frequently made errors by students provide the most effective source of useful distracters.
- Alternatives are supposed to be stated concisely and understandably. Those alternatives that are unreasonably wordy usually assess the reading ability of the students rather than their learning objective attainment.
- Alternatives are supposed to be mutually and undoubtedly exclusive. The alternatives that have overlapping content can be regarded as "tricky" items by students, excessive application of which may erode or influence respect and trust for the process of testing.
- Alternatives are supposed to be heterogeneous and analogues in content. The heterogeneous alternatives may provide some hints to the students about the right answer.
- Alternatives are supposed to be free from the clues concerning which answer is the right one.Sophisticated and experienced test-takers are always alert to inadvertent and unintentional clues to the right answer, for instance, differences in spelling or grammar, formatting, length, language choice in the options, etc. Therefore, it is of great significance that all alternatives:
- are the same in the form;
- have the grammar that is very consistent with the stem provided;
- are of about the same length;
- utilize similar words, phrases or terms.
- The alternatives such as "none of the above" or "all of the above" are to be avoided. When the latter is applied as an answer, those students who may identify more than one option as the correct one can choose the right answer even if unaware of other alternative or option(s). When the former is utilized as an option, students who may eliminate a single alternative can, thereby, eliminate the second one as well. In both cases, students may utilize partial knowledge to settle upon the right answer or option.
- The alternatives are supposed to be in a logical order (numerically or alphabetically) to avoid a bias to specific positions or placements.
- The number of alternatives may be dissimilar among the options as long as all the alternatives should be plausible. Such alternatives usually serve as distracters. There is little difference in discrimination, difficulty, as well as test reliability of the score among the items comprising two, three, four or more distracters.
Additional Writing Guidelines: Pieces of Advice
- Avoid complicated multiple choice questions, in which all of the alternatives or some of them comprise diverse combinations of possible options. In case of the "all-of-the-above" answers, sophisticated and experienced students can apply partial knowledge so as to provide the right answer.
- Keep the specified content of the items free-standing of each other. Some students can apply some piece of info given in one question to give an answer to another one, thus reducing the test validity.
Considerations for Completing Multiple Choice Questions Tasks that Check Higher-order and Analytical Thinking of Students
When completing multiple choice questions to test or check higher-order and analytical thinking, the questions should be designed with special focus on the higher levels of cognition according to the taxonomy by Bloom. A stem, which presents a specific problem or issue that requires the utilization of course/term principles, the analysis of a certain problem or issue, or the evaluation of alternatives provided is to be focused on higher-order and analytical thinking and tests the ability of the students to do such type of thinking. In designing multiple choice questions tasks to test higher-order and analytical thinking, it may also be very helpful to work out the problems that demand multi-logical type of thinking. It should be stressed that multi-logical thinking can be defined as "the way or type of thinking which requires the knowledge of more than one aspect or fact to utilize the concepts to a specific problem systematically and logically." Last but not least, competing for the alternatives that require that students to have a high level of discrimination may also significantly contribute to multiple choice questions that test or check higher-order and analytical thinking.
Passing the Multiple Choice Questions Tests with the Highest Scores
Multiple choice questions tasks are frequently applied by the teaching staff in different educational institutions worldwide, as they check problem-solving and critical thinking skills of students. You can struggle with such writing tasks as multiple choice questions and not know how to successfully cope with them. In order to gain a high grade, you should commence by analyzing the set questions. The next step is that you should give the answers to the questions efficiently by doing through them very strategically. Consider that you may also get ready for your test so you do pretty well and gain the highest grade.
Method 1: Analysis of the Questions Provided
Follow the exam or test rubrics. Some multiple choice questions tests ask that you will write directly in the test booklet provided. You may be required to complete your answers in a separate answer paper sheet. Keep to the instructions rubrics provided in your test, or as given by your teacher, instructor, or supervisor.
Read each question carefully and attentively. Commence by reading each question slowly and thoughtfully. If you take a physical test, utilize a blank paper sheet to cover all possible answers given below the questions provided. This technique will allow you to fully focus on the question under analysis.
- You may reread one question for several times to ensure you clearly understand it. Do not get in a hurry and try to manage your time wisely.
Make the analysis of the wording of each question. Always search for any negative words or phrases in the set question, for instance, "Choose the answer that does not explain..." Check whether there is any judgment phrase or words in the question provided, such as "Choose or select the best alternative."
- You should also make an analysis of the question for any kind of phrasing that asks for the multiple answers to the set question, for instance, "Select more than one answer possible" or "Specify two of the five options provided."
Come about with the answer of your own to the set question on the test. Before you start pondering on possible replies provided to the question, think whether you can give an answer to it yourself. Brood on the question and present your own answer grounded on your knowledge and experience.
- If you follow this advice, you will be able to give your answer before you glance at the multiple choice questions tests. Chances are very high that the answer you have is one of the alternatives for the set question under analysis.
- If you cannot come about with the answer of yours, that is ok. You can apply the answers given to choose from.
Method 2: Replying to the Questions Efficiently
Make a review of all the answers possible. Once you have focused the question set, look carefully at all the alternatives provided. Most multiple choice questions tests provide from 4 to 6 alternatives per each question. Sometimes, only two options can be provided.
- Pay thorough attention to every answer given. Do not skip or skim over any possible alternatives. This will ensure that you take a well-informed decision concerning the right answer to the set question.
Eliminate all incorrect answers. Use any small mark, such a dot, by the answers that you consider incorrect from the very beginning. You may be aware that 1 or 2 answers are definitely incorrect or not right. Exclude all the doubtful alternatives.
- Seek for possible replies that have "never," "none of the above" or "always," in them, as they are, in the majority of cases, incorrect.
- Avoid considering that your teacher tries to trip you up with confusing or tricky alternatives.
Search for the answer that addresses the question set fully. Question yourself whether the chosen answer fully replies the question set. Rely on your inner voice and settle upon the answer that replies fully to the set question and you think that it is 100% correct.
- For instance, you can be in two judgments between 2 answers to the question set. Try out each answer to the question under analysis. Read this question to yourself for several times and place every answer at the very end of the question set. Choose the one that you consider right.
Provide the answers to the questions set one by one or in order. Do not provide the answers to those questions that you are 100% aware of first. If you skip around, you lose valuable and priceless time. Work through every question in order. If you do this, you will be able to give answers to the questions applying all your abilities, skills, knowledge, and experience.
- If you are concentrated on one of the questions provided, work through it not very quickly. In case you are surely stumped, mark it in some way so that you will be able to focus on it at the end of your test.
Avoid leaving any questions without the answers provided. Keep in mind that if you do this, you can lose your points. Making the choice of the answer based on your knowledge or judgment may bring you one or two additional points.
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Method 3: Getting Ready For Writing a Multiple Choice Questions Test
Study beforehand for your exam or test. In order to gain high grades or scores, you should make the study for your test or exam in advance. Complete a study timetable for the test or exam and set the time needed for you to study accordingly.
- Cramming for the test or exam can result in stress, anxiety, or irritation. You may not retain necessary information or material well in case you start cramming the night or day before your exam or test, thus leading to a low grade or score.
Ask your instructor to provide or show the past exams/tests examples. If you are constantly struggling with multiple choice questions task, you can ask your instructor to provide the preoperational tests. You may also ask him/her to show some examples of the previous tests.
- Utilize the previous tests so as to get ready for the future ones. Look into the structure and organization of the questions and the answers provided. Take a few tests in order to improve your results at multiple choice questions tests.
- If your teacher does not show you previous tests, join one of the study groups so that you will be able to study and prepare with them. You can also refer a professional study helper or tutor to assist you with the preparation for your exam or test.
Sleep enough and eat only healthy food. Consider that you should sleep for about eight hours. You should also eat only healthy food not only the day before the test but also every day.
- In the morning before the test, you should eat breakfast rich in vitamins, nutrients and proteins, such as eggs, fruit, toast, vegetables, yogurt or granola.
Practice a soothing activity before your test. Look through your notes before the test and do any soothing activity from time to time to calm down. Have some rest with your family members or friends, go to the movie, or listen to your favorite music.
Study with your close friends, and avoid different distractions, for instance, nightclubs, parties, long tours or trips. This can lead to failure at your test or exam in the future. Keep in mind this proverb - everything is good in its season!