Developing good multiple-choice tests
By Prof. Spencer Benson, former Director of the Centre for Teaching and Learning Enhancement
Multiple-choice questions are commonly used for quizzes and often on final exams, especially then the number of students taking the exam is large. An easy to read publication by Xiaomeng Xu et al. (2016) provides helpful advice. Here are several key points to consider when developing tests.
Check the alignment of the questions with the learning outcomes of your course, ask yourself which learning outcomes are assessed and at what level? Are the questions consistent with what was covered in the course and not focused on a subset of lectures or concepts. Also confirm that each question corresponds to a different level of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives (examples). Writing good multiple-choice questions that assess higher levels of understanding is challenging and well worth the effort.
Have a colleague or TA proof the exam questions, identifying questions that are unclear, tricky or trivial. Also, have a colleague take the exam and record the time needed to complete the exam. Generally, if they can complete the exam in one third of the allocated time then the length is probably appropriate.
Revised by CTLE on 27 January 2022.