Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Posted July 10th, 2012

Writing effective multiple choice questions needs to be done with a lot of care. We think that this involves following four basic principles. Here is some brief information about them before we go on to work through them individually.

1. Start With the Objectives

Effective multiple choice questions must always be linked to clearly defined objectives.

What are you trying to assess?

Is it a formative or summative assessment?

Avoid trick questions that are not related to objectives.

2. Clear and Understandable

As a general rule, language and sentence structure should be kept as simple as possible.

Take care to avoid ambiguous stems, answers and distracters.

Make sure that you are assessing the objectives rather than tricking people with questions that are difficult to comprehend.

3. No Soft Clues

It can sometimes be possible to guess the correct answer from the question itself.

Questioners may leave clues in the stem, answer or distracters that they do not intend.

Remember that you are assessing objectives not candidates ability to guess answers correctly.

4. Meaningful Feedback

In summative assessments the absolute minimum that candidates will need to know is whether they have passed or failed.

Formative assessments require more.

Candidates need to know whether their answers were right or wrong.

They also need to know why they were right or wrong.

This is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble ‘Writing Multiple Choice Questions’ training course materials, which you can download from our website at



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