What Are Typical Multiple-Choice Questions?

How To Design Typical Multiple-Choice Questions For Tests And Surveys

Questions that offer several answer options are called multiple-choice questions. They may contain single-select or multi-select variants of answers. These questions are frequently used in different surveys or questionnaires. The respondents ought to pick one answer (sometimes – more than one). One of the most essential tasks that an educator faces is to formulate such questions correctly.

A usual multiple-choice question consists of two parts. The main part is called a stem. It points out the subject matter, the problem. The second part of such a question may include a number of probable or alternative answers. It contains the best answer and several distractors which are incorrect. Respondents select the answer that they consider to be true. There are several benefits of using such questions as a task. It’s easy to mark the questions and they will be scored by computers. Such possibilities are convenient for large classrooms. MCQ (Multiple-Choice Questions) are successfully used to test and evaluate knowledge on different subjects.

Why Do We Use of Multiple-Choice Questions?

The obvious benefit of such questions is the ability of respondents may see the right answer. This can help to recollect the necessary information and choose correctly. It may be necessary during a test or an exam when respondents can get nervous and forget the material.

Such questions are precise and short. That allows us to use them in exams and various tests. Sometimes such questions are used to let children focus on the test.

There are also several drawbacks as well. For example, respondents may guess the right answer.

In this article, you will find essential tips on designing multiple-choice questions. These tips are divided into three groups

  1. A general strategy;
  2. How to design a stem;
  3. How to design alternatives.

General strategy for designing multiple questions

  • It is more appropriate if you write questions throughout the term. To design questions for exams is a challenging task. It takes a lot of time to write these questions. Write several questions weekly, after a lecture, for example. In this case, it will be easier. The information will still be fresh in your memory.
  • Teach respondents to pick the best answer.  Distractors may contain an element of truth in them, so you should explain it to respondents.
  • Designing a question, you should use familiar terms, known terminology. Respondents will likely treat an unfamiliar word and expression as a distractor.  They won’t choose it.
  • Try not to use in the stem the words similar to the correct answer. If that will be the case, respondents most likely will choose such words as the correct answer.
  • Don’t use trick questions. Questions should be simple enough for respondents who know the material. Don’t write misleading or tricky questions. Don’t make your goal to mislead respondents to an incorrect answer.
  • Don’t use negative words either in a stem or in alternatives. The use of negative words can mislead respondents. Even those respondents who know and understand the material well can choose the wrong answer. The reason is the use of negatives. In cases, if you really have to use negatives, you should put them in the upper case or underlining them.

How to design a stem part of a multiple-choice question

  • In the stem, you should point out the whole problem or issue. When you write a question, remember, that respondents should be able to answer questions. They should be able to answer without seeing options. If that is possible, the goal of the question is clear.
  • Necessary information should be written in the stem. The information included in the stem should not be repeated in any of the alternatives. It will make the process of answering simpler. It will also allow respondents to answer the questions correctly.
  • There should be no irrelevant data in the stem. Don’t use excessive wording. All these mislead respondents.

How to design alternatives

  • The number of alternatives should be limited. Each question should contain three to five alternatives. 
  • According to research, questions with three alternatives are as effective as questions with four or five.
  • There should be only one option that is the best. You shouldn’t write two variants of answers that are right. There has to be only one right answer. Several distractors will be incorrect answers to stem questions.
  • The distractors ought to be believable and credible. They represent the usual mistakes made by the respondents. You should make the distractors look plausible.
  • The alternatives should be grammatically consistent and fit the stem.
  • It’s better to place the choices in some order (numerical, conceptual or chronological). A multiple-choice question should be well structured.
  • The correct answer should be distributed randomly.
  • Don’t use “all of the above” options. There ought to be only one appropriate answer.
  • Don’t use “none of the above” options.
  • Try not to use in your questions the words “always”, “never”, “all”, “none”
  • Avoid choices similar in meaning. All alternatives should be opposite in meaning. There should be no two true distractors.

Types and Examples of Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple choice questions are sometimes classified into single-select and multi-select questions. The classification is based upon the number of the required answers to one and the same question.

Single select type of multiple-choice questions

In such questions, respondents have to choose only one answer from several variants. These questions are most widely used. These questions help to select the answer about which the student might not have thought. It is quite simple to answer such questions form a tablet or a smartphone.

How long shall we celebrate Christmas this year?

  1. A week
  2. Three days
  3. Two days
  4. Ten days

Multi select type of multiple-choice questions

These questions are similar to single select types of questions but they differ a little. They can have more than one correct answer. For example, if you create surveys, you can create as many options of answers as you need.

What types of credit cards do you use?

  1. Visa
  2. Mastercard
  3. American Express
  4. Discover
  5. Diners Club

Drop down menu type of multiple-choice questions

Such questions can be used in surveys. In this case, the answers are given on a drop-down menu. For example, when you click an arrow, there will appear several answer options. From them, you will have to pick the right option. Such questions are simple for the analysis. You can choose only one correct answer.

What type of food is especially useful in spring?

  1. Green vegetables
  2. Meat
  3. Cereals

Star rating type of multiple-choice questions

Such questions require respondents to rate something with a certain number of stars. If you select more stars that means a higher rating. These questions help those who want to get the client’s feedback about a product or service. These questions are also used in different surveys.

How do you rate our hosting?

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Bad

Text slider type of multiple-choice questions

In such questions, respondents only have to use the slider to point out the right option.

How many times do you typically exercise a week?

  1. Every day
  2. Three times
  3. One time

Push to social type of multiple-choice questions

In this type of questions, respondents have to send feedback to social networking websites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc).

Rate this book and share the information to your account in Facebook

Numeric slider type of multiple-choice questions

In such questions, respondents slide and choose the right answer by giving it a score, for example, from 0 to 100.

Agree that you know your home town well

(from 0 to 100)

Thumbs up/down type of multiple-choice questions

This question has binary rating answers. You can respond to choosing a thumb up (positive attitude to the subject) or a thumb down (negative attitude to the subject).

What do you think about the latest film with this producer?

  1. Thumb up (love it)
  2. Thumb down (hate it)

Smiley rating type of multiple-choice questions

Usually, the options of answers include five variants to rate with a smiley icon:

  1. Extremely satisfied 
  2. Unsatisfied Neutral 
  3. Satisfied 
  4. Extremely satisfied

Multi point scale matrix type of multiple-choice questions

Respondents should give answers about different items in just one question.

What is your attitude towards?

 New elections in 2027

Political literacy in your country

  1. Good    
  2. Bad  
  3. I don’t care

Spreadsheet based type of multiple-choice questions

In this case, respondents should write about the answer they have selected. They have to explain their choice.

Answer the text:

How did you like your new school building?  

  1. Bad             
  2. Neutral       
  3. Good  

There are lots of types of multiple-choice questions that are currently used. Interactive educational technologies and the internet have developed. Their number has increasingly grown. To be able to design multiple questions correctly is essential for various professions. These are teachers, tutors, marketers, service providers. Hopefully, the information forms this article will help you in designing multiple questions.