Unit 3 - Multiple Choice Questions in Online Courses


Multiple Choice Questions

Knowing online assessment.jpg

Knowingcheck.jpg According to Fellenz (2004), multiple choice questions are a closed selection based format, effective for assessing students' content learning. They focus on the selection, rather than creation, of answers, and with them a broad range of topics can be covered in a single exam. They can easily be automatically graded by the computer and instant feedback can be given to the student. However, many multiple choice questions assess lower level learning, and it can be difficult to create one that test higher cognitive levels. Proper development can alleviate some potential problems with multiple choice questions, but they should still be used with other assessment formats to test the widest range of skills.

How Can the Multiple Choice Format Be Used Effectively?

Knowingcheck.jpg Since multiple choice questions are so widely used in online assessments, it is important to know how to use them effectively. Fellenz (2004) has outlined some general suggestions for creating multiple choice questions, including these:

  • Use clear wording, and eliminate any extra information from the question.
  • Highlight any critical word, such as "NOT" or "EXCLUDING."
  • Make sure there is only one correct answer, and that all the answer choices are unambiguous.
  • Write the answer options with parallel grammatical structure.
  • The incorrect choices should be plausible, and contain familiar words.
  • Extreme words, such as "always, never, all" should be avoided since they generally indicate incorrect options.
  • Vague words should also be avoided (usually, typically).
  • Avoid using "all of the above" since eliminating one answer choice eliminates that choice too.
  • If one more choice is needed, "none of the above" is an acceptable one.
  • Identify the cognitive level being tested by the question, so you know if you're covering higher or lower levels.


Knowingquestion.jpgHere is an example of a question testing Bloom's basic cognitive level of remembering, because it only requires the recall of information to answer the question correctly.

1. Sensation, perception, and memory are of particular interest to which group of contemporary psychologists?

a. psychoanalysts

b. behaviorists

c. humanistic psychologists

d. cognitive psychologists

Knowingquestion.jpgThis example, on the other hand, tests three levels: remembering, understanding, and applying. Remembering, because it asks for the recall of information. Understanding, because the terms used need to be understood by the student to choose the correct answer. Applying, because it requires a formula to be applied to decide on the correct choice.

2. Peter’s performance-outcome perception that a good class performance will lead to a high participation grade is 0.8. His effort-performance expectation that spending much time on preparing for class will lead to a good in-class performance is 0.6. The value of a high participation grade to him is 0.9. Which of the following is true?

A) Peter’s motivational score is 2.3.

B) Peter’s expectancy is larger than his instrumentality.

C) Peter will spend much time preparing for class.

D) None of the above.

Your Turn!

Knowingquestion.jpgNow that you have read the rationale behind effective multiple choice questions, as well as a list of suggestion and two examples, it's time for you to create your own question. Using the guidelines above, write a question with four choices, and click on the 'discussion' tab above to post it. Along with your question, explain which of Bloom's cognitive levels are being tested.

Continue to Unit 4 - Alternative Assessment Methods in Online Courses

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