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Do's and Don'ts for Writing Multiple-Choice Questions


In General

  • Minimize the amount of reading

  • Use words familiar to the students

  • Don’t never use double negatives

  • Assess course content versus other skills (test-wiseness, logic, grammar)

  • Avoid direct textbook quotes (could serve as a clue)

  • Be sensitive to diversity issues



  • Write questions testing various levels

  • Question should be clearly stated

  • Question should address a significant course item

  • State the question in a positive form

  • If use negatives, emphasize (bold, underline)

  • Check grammar and style (could cause reading confusion and can give clues)

  • Minimize “always”, “never”, “all”

  • Direct questions are preferable to incomplete statements

  • Include bulk of content in the question versus the choices



  • Use 3 – 5 answer choices

  • Put choices in vertical order

  • Place options in logical order if there is one

  • Avoid unnecessary repetition of text in the choices

  • Include one definite best or correct option

  • Avoid making the correct/best answer longer

  • Make different letters/numbers correct and randomize (versus making “c” the most common right answer)

  • Make distractors wrong, but plausible

  • Avoid throw-away answers

  • Avoid overlap and interdependence of distractors

  • Use “none of the above” cautiously

  • Avoid multiple correct answers (both a and c)

  • Avoid fine distinctions between options (unless you’re testing for that)

  • Include common errors and misconceptions in choices as a means of assessing comprehension