Multiple choice tests don’t get a lot of respect. But in addition to helping overworked instructors save time, they can, when done well, also be effective measurements both of basic understanding and precise discrimination. Too often, though, they are simply a measure of how well students take tests. Here’s an article from Faculty Focus on “7 Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Multiple Choice Questions.” (Note: This is not an endorsement of the webinar promoted in the article.)
Other suggestions for writing good multiple choice questions include these from McKeachie’s Teaching Tips (available in MLIB 458 if you want to read more):
- “The item as a whole should present a problem of significance in the subject-matter field” (78).
- “Emphasizing in the multiple-choice test introduction that the students should choose the best answer may help prevent lengthy discussion with the student who can dream up a remote instance in which the correct alternative might be wrong” (81).
Even the discussions that follow that persistent student’s defense of her answer, though, are instructive, and should be used to refine future versions of the test. (Another argument for reviewing tests in class.) My colleagues and I also often swap tests before administering them to weed out items that are unclear or exploitable by the test-savvy. This also allows us to show off our cleverness to each other.
Really good multiple choice questions are hard to write, but developing a bank of them for a course you teach frequently can be a good investment of your time.
This tip was:
- a waste of time
Using Video to Enhance Learning and Teaching: A Hands-On Workshop.
Wednesday, October 22, 12:00-1:30 PM
MLIB 002 TLP Training Lab
Description: The current generation coming through Chico State are visual learners, used to turning to YouTube videos and Video Blogs for entertainment, personal edification, and self-expression. Come and hear how one faculty member has successfully incorporated video introductions as well as video assignments into her class, then start learning how to use our free tools to enhance your own courses with video.
*Authored by Dr. Katherine McCarthy.