One of the benefits of elearning is that it can include an assessment to provide instant feedback for learners. Immediately they know where they have performed well and where there is still room for improvement. Multiple choice questions are a great way to test your learners’ knowledge, provided you use them effectively. Here are eight questions to ask yourself next time you’re creating multiple choice questions.
Are my questions easy to understand?
Remember that nothing should get in the way of a learner being able to clearly understand your questions and answers. Write your questions using a simple sentence structure and try to be as accurate as possible in your word choices so there is no ambiguity. You should also avoid using negative sentence structures to phrase questions, as this can lead to confusion.
Are my answers all around the same length?
We’ve all taken tests where the correct answer stands out like a sore thumb because it is much longer and more complex than the others. Immediately the difficulty of that question is compromised. If the correct answer is quite lengthy, try creating at least one other lengthy answer to make it less conspicuous.
Are there a consistent number of answers to choose from?
Making the number of options consistent from question to question helps learners know what to expect. It also contributes to giving your course a consistent look and feel throughout. Whether you choose to have three, four or five answer options, stick with the same format for each question.
Are my answers in a random order?
Keep moving the position of your correct answers around and don’t let them fall into a pattern that can be detected, as this is another way to diminish the effectiveness of your test. When you’ve finished writing, have another look through to check where the correct answers are placed to make sure they’re random. Most elearning authoring systems offer the option of randomising answers, so make the most of this tool.
Are my distractors believable?
A distractor is an incorrect answer to a multiple choice question, and writing plausible distractors can be the most challenging and time-consuming part of this process. However, they are key to making your assessment challenging but achievable. If the correct answer is obvious, your learners aren’t tested and it becomes impossible to assess whether they have actually applied their knowledge. A good way to gauge the quality of your distractors is that they should seem plausible to someone who doesn’t know the learning content, but clearly wrong to someone who does.
Can I avoid using ‘all of the above’ or ‘none of the above’ as possible answers?
When you’ve hit the brick wall of writing plausible distractors, options such as ‘all of the above’ or ‘none of the above’ can seem like a great way to fill in the blanks. However, they may reduce the quality of the assessment: ‘all of the above’ can be an obvious giveaway answer when not used consistently, and also insinuates to the learner that more than one answer is correct; ‘none of the above’ means you can’t test if the learner really knew the correct answer.
Can I include multiple select questions?
In the simplest form of multiple choice – the true or false question – the learner obviously has a 50% chance of guessing the correct answer. Even with a standard four-option multiple choice question, there is clearly still a 25% chance of guessing correctly.
Multiple-select questions are like multiple choice questions, but the learner can choose several correct answers. The odds of a learner guessing the correct answers are greatly decreased, especially if there are differing amounts of correct answers to each question. If you’re worried about learners guessing their way correctly through your test, multiple select answers may be what you need.
Do all of my questions relate to the learning goals of the course?
Perhaps the most important point of all is that your questions should be designed to test understanding, not memory. Multiple choice questions are sometimes criticised for simply testing how well learners can recall what they have just read. One of the most effective ways to avoid this is to base your questions in a workplace context: give your learners a scenario and ask which answer would resolve it, or offer opinions from four colleagues and ask whose advice they would follow.
All your questions should centre on a single key idea or important concept that was raised during the course. Anything that doesn’t is best left out of your assessment.
At GLAD we write great multiple choice questions that complement the brilliant elearning we produce. To find out more about what we can offer your business, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter.