Assessment Design: types of assessment task

Multiple-Choice Test

What is it?

A multiple-choice test contains a series of questions. Each question has a stem and there is a selection of responses provided to each stem. One or more of the responses is correct; the incorrect responses are known as distractors. Students can choose the response(s) they think are correct.

Multiple-choice tests are a good way to review coverage of a wide area of knowledge.

There are variations on the presentation of the questions: printed responses may be in the form of a list of words or images. If the test is online, selected responses may need to be dragged and dropped somewhere on a screen.

Recommended levels:

3– 7

Suitable for groups?


Things to think about

Do you want all of the questions to be of equal difficulty? If not, how will you decide on the marking: should all questions have equal weighting?

All responses should be plausible, otherwise students will be able to eliminate some responses, reducing the number of options. You also need to make sure that both stems and responses are concise, so that students can focus quickly on the main purpose of the question.

Writing good multiple-choice questions is challenging and takes time, but can save a lot of marking time at a later stage.

Assignment length

How long will it take to complete each question? It is a good idea to test some sample questions with students, to get an idea of how many questions you can reasonably include in a test.

Group work

Completing multiple-choice questions is a good formative activity for students who need to prepare for a test, but the tests aren’t suitable for a group unless you want them to work together and all to get the same mark. If they are discussing questions, they would need to be more challenging and the students will need longer to complete them.

Plagiarism Issues

This kind of test doesn’t require the students to produce ideas, and is usually under exam conditions, so plagiarism is not a problem. If you use multiple-choice questions for a take-home exam, then you need to set questions which require reasoning rather than knowledge reproduction.


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