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Thirteen Rules for Writing Multiple Choice Items

Planning the Item

  1. Relate each item to a specific instructional objective or objectives of the course. Make sure that the verb is similar and that the performance level is appropriate. Check to see that the content relates to the topics covered in related objectives and to important teaching points.

  2. Make sure stems and options agree grammatically and conceptually with each other.

  3. Avoid negative statements. If negatives must be used, CAPITALIZE, underscore, bold, or otherwise highlight the negative term.

  4. Avoid using absolute words such as “always,” “all", "only,” and “never.”

  5. Avoid giving clues to the correct response (in the stem).

  6. Make items independent of other items so that one does not have to be completed before other items, and that one does not help or hinder in answering other items.

Writing the Stem

  1. Present a single, definite, clearly worded statement to be completed or question to be answered by one of the options. Keep students’ reading efforts to a minimum and eliminate irrelevant material.

Writing the Response Options

  1. Ensure that only one response is considered best or correct by experts in the field.

  2. Use plausible and attractive distracters representing common errors.

  3. Avoid using “all of the above,” “none of the above,” or “two of the above.”

  4. Arrange responses in a logical order (alphabetical, chronological, numerical) to avoid patterns of responses.

  5. Use one correct answer and three distracters (i.e., four options).

  6. Make option similar in length and as brief as possible.

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  • 13-Feb-2020