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The art of formulating MCQ into a Quiz

Image showing person in labyrinth

Many teachers would probably agree that it is an art to write good multiple choice questions. Multiple Choice Questions or MCQ are so-called closed questions, where the answering person gets to choose from a number of given answer options instead of formulating an answer themselves.

Photo by Dan Asaki on Unsplash

Text by Ann-Catrin Johansson, LTH 

MCQ

When creating your multiple choice questions, one must reflect on both the introductory text, which is also referred to as the trunk, and the answer options. Below is an example of a less successful question:

You are in Amsterdam on a weekend, SARS-COV2 is only a memory. The vaccinations have worked excellently. You enter the restaurant Senses to eat and see on the menu that they serve “Tompouse”. You decide to order this as you know it is a famous:

A. desserts

B. pastry

C. starters

D. salads

The example above makes visible the concept of syntax cluing as only one option can be correct, namely a famous pastry, since it cannot be a famous desserts, a famous starters or a famous salads. In addition to syntax cluing, the trunk contains information that is not relevant to the question itself. Additional information that takes time to read.

Limited time?

When creating questions, you must keep the context in mind. Do students have unlimited or limited time? The type of multiple choice questions (length of initial trunk, number of answer options, length of options, etc.) depends on what the questions are to be used for. If it is a sharp exam, it is better to keep the trunk short because it is difficult to absorb a lot of information during an exam. If the question is used, instead, in a different teaching context, a longer trunk can contribute to the pedagogical value. One should always avoid measuring reading ability rather than the student's knowledge in the field.

Distractors

When formulating your distractors (incorrect answer options), it is easy to include a little more detail when formulating the correct option, wishing to be as accurate as possible. The risk is then that there will be a clear difference between the correct option and the other answer options. It is a good strategy to ask for the best option, single best answer (SBA), it does not have to be 100% correct. It is also important that the distractors have a parallel structure, i.e. if you ask for a recommendation, all the distractors should be recommendations. 

The number of distractors in each question is a balancing issue and depends on what is most relevant and appropriate. One tip is that good distractors are better than many distractors, so do not fill up with distractors unless they have a purpose. Another tip is that it may be easier to start by formulating the distractors and then select one of them and create the trunk based on this. By doing so, it is also possible to reuse the distractors on another occasion. You can then choose one of the other distractors and write a new trunk.

Help each other

Writing good multiple choice questions is, as I said, an art, and we have gathered some tips for you here. Don't forget that you can help each other within the college, test your questions on each other.
 

This article is inspired by a workshop held under medCUL's auspices and with the theme "How do we create good multiple choice questions (MCQ, single best answer)".