Friday, December 11, 2009

More item-writing tips

Here’s another batch of tips for writing more effective multiple-choice test items. Enjoy!

  • To decrease the likelihood that students can guess the correct answer, follow these rules for responses and distracters.

  • Responses should be parallel in content. For instance, if the correct response is a disease name, make sure all distracters are also diseases, not lab tests, drugs, or some other element.

  • Responses should be grammatically consistent and logically compatible with the stem.

  • Distracters should be clearly incorrect or inferior to the correct response.

  • Distracters should be plausible and attractive to less well-informed test takers.

  • Make sure that distracters differ from the answer in a substantial way, not just in some minor nuance of phrasing or emphasis.

  • Avoid negative stems at all costs. If you must use one, make sure the negative is formatted as all caps in bold/italic. For example, “Which of the following is NOT a symptom of osteoporosis?”

  • Streamline the responses as much as possible by including repetitive material in the stem. For instance, if all the responses start with “An incidence of,” insert the “an incidence of” into the stem.

  • Avoid using “All of the above” or “None of the above” in test items. If you decide to use them, make sure that they appear sporadically as both correct and incorrect responses. Otherwise the savvy test taker will quickly learn how to answer those types of items.

  • Avoid using “always” or “never” in the stem. Doing so immediately tips off the savvy test taker to the correct response.