Welcome to Teaching & Learning Matters. This is Harish Cherukuri, Faculty Fellow in the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Today’s topic is "Preparing Multiple Choice Questions."
I will be giving this presentation in two parts. In the first part, I will define some terminology and then discuss the advantages and disadvantages of multiple choice questions. In the second part, I will provide some guidelines on preparing the questions.
First, let me point out that there are a lot of resources online on writing multiple choice questions. In fact, in preparing for this podcast, I used some of these resources.
My focus here will be on multiple choice questions where there is only one correct answer. The questions where there may be more than one correct answer for each question are known as Multiple Response Questions. I'll not be talking about them in this podcast.
Some terminology first:
- A multiple choice question consists of two parts: a stem and a set of options.
- The stem is the first part of the question that is the main body. It can be in the form of a question or an incomplete sentence to be completed.
- The options are the choices from which the student selects one as his/her response.
- The correct answer is called the key and the rest are called distracters or foils.
So, what are the advantages of multiple choice questions?
- Multiple choice questions are easy to grade. It's a breeze if they're given through the Moodle quiz module since Moodle can grade them automatically.
- They take less time than other tests which require written responses. Therefore, in a given amount of time, more questions can be given and thus allowing more topics to be covered more thoroughly.
- More objective assessment is possible since the responses are independent of factors irrelevant to the questions.
- The distracters can be based on common mistakes that students make. Feedback based on these common mistakes can be built into the questions. Moodle has this feature, by the way. This feedback can be released to the students immediately after the questions are answered or at a later time.
Next, let us look at some disadvantages.
- Multiple choice questions can be difficult or time-consuming to prepare.
- The distracters must be such that they're plausible yet incorrect.
- In general, the questions can be used to assess lower-order skills. In some cases, higher-order skills can also be assessed but the question preparation requires significant effort.
- Students can guess the answers at random and get a score that is not truly reflective of their understanding of the material. However, guessing can be discouraged through negative scoring for incorrect answers.
In the next part, I will talk about some guidelines for preparing multiple choice questions.
Thanks for listening. Be sure to join us for our next episode. And remember: Teaching and Learning Matters.