Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) can empower students as self-regulated learners, as long as time is taken into planning, writing and managing the MCQs. They are not only a tool for assessment, but also for learning, revision and feedback.

Where time is spent creating effective questions and distractors, time is saved through automated marking and easy-to-access test analytics. However, MCQs are not always suitable and each situation needs to be assessed to work out if an MCQ would help students reach the intended learning outcomes.

Reducing searchability

A range of cognitive levels can be tested (recall, apply and evaluate), but is always important to link the questions to the desired learning outcomes. However, fact recall questions can be easily searchable.

Some ways to reduce searchability can include:

  • Use a novel context (hypothetical scenarios can work well)
  • Use common mistakes & misconceptions as distractors
  • Multiple select (1 or 2 correct)
  • Shift the focus from recall questions to application-style questions

On the other hand embracing open book exams for what they are and having searchable questions can test a variety other skills of students. Searching can also act as a hindrance and distraction.

Constructing questions and distractors

Planning and designing the questions is one of the most important part of using MCQs. Both the questions and distractors should be constructed effectively.

Pitfalls to avoid

If you have a question bank which you often refer back to, try to manage this effectively. Use this checklist of pitfalls to avoid to identify any points of improvement:

Updated on: 01 October 2022