Why Use a Multiple Choice Test?
Multiple choice testing is an efficient and effective way to assess a wide range of knowledge, skills, attitudes and abilities (Haladyna, 1999). When done well, it allows broad and even deep coverage of content in a relatively efficient way. Though often maligned, and though it is true that no single format should be used exclusively for assessment (American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Council on Measurement in Education , 1999), multiple choice testing still remains one of the most commonly used assessment formats (Haladyna, 1999; McDougall, 1997).
What is a Multiple Choice Test?
For developing and refining items or for diagnostic purposes, analysis can be a little more complex. |
Other Things to Consider: | Logistical concerns such as your students using scanning sheets correctly. |
A multiple choice test is constructed of multiple choice items, which consist of two, sometimes three, parts as shown below.
The Stem of a multiple choice item is the part to which the student is to respond. In everyday language, we'd call this the question, but since it could be a statement or even an analogy or an equation, we'll use the technical term, Stem.
The Options are the choices from which examinees are to choose. There are two kinds of options: the Key is the correct or best choice; the Distracters are incorrect or less appropriate choices.
Sometimes Stimulus Materials can also be used with a multiple choice item, something like a bar graph, a table, a map, a short text, etc. There will be more about stimulus materials in a moment.
Multiple-choice tests can be used to meet a variety of educational purposes, though they most often are used in the classroom to measure academic achievement, and to determine course grades. Other purposes to which they can be put include feedback to students, instructional feedback, diagnosis of student misconceptions, and others. (See the Suggestions for Use section.)
A Few Multiple Choice Myths
Multiple-choice tests are objective—Multiple-choice items are sometimes called "objective" items, an unfortunate label. They can be just as subjective as an essay question if they're poorly written . (Indeed, a well-crafted essay prompt and scoring rubric can be much more objective than some multiple choice items.) Subjectivity/objectivity does not reside in the format but in the construction and scoring, thus objectivity must be planned into multiple-choice questions (Dwyer, 1993).
Multiple-choice tests assess only superficial knowledge—It is perhaps because faculty test as they were tested, not following state-of-the-art rules for testing, that multiple choice has the reputation it does. Research has long shown that college-level faculty do not write exams well (Guthrie, 1992; Lederhouse & Lower, 1974; McDougall, 1997), and that both faculty and students notice the side effects, like focusing on memorization and facts (Crooks, 1988; Shifflett, Phibbs, & Sage, 1997).
Multiple choice tests are for grading only —This myth arises from the misapprehension that assessment and instruction are separate stages of the learning process. Indeed, there can be no instruction without sound assessment, and, more importantly, both are critical for learning to occur. As Crooks (1988) succinctly put it: "Too much emphasis has been placed on the...