Navigation Menu

Click the "+" to see inside a chapter or use the search to the right.


Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

In the Item Development tutorial, content is broken down into the following sections:    


The previous section addressed how one should analyze a role in full detail prior to developing test content. This is consistent with the step-by-step nature of the image below. In this section, we will review industry best practices associated with test content development, specifically multiple-choice test questions. This is the fun part!  


Why Multiple-Choice Questions?

  1. Recognition: Multiple-choice test items are the most familiar format of testing content for candidates.
  2. Value: Multiple-choice test items are very effective for testing knowledge and memory.
  3. Cost Effective: It is the easiest type of testing content to administer and score.
  4. Versatility: One can cover many different areas of subject matter with multiple-choice items.
  5. Ease of Construction: It is relatively easy to teach subject matter experts to create content of this type by sharing best practices. 
  6. Reliability: Multiple-choice items are statistically more reliable than other item types (Haladyna, 2004).
  7. Confidence: The format is a better prediction of other standardized exams likely to be faced by candidates in certification and licensure (Downing and Norchini, 1998).


With multiple-choice items, one can assess diverse knowledge, psychological processes, and decision making!




Precautions of Multiple-Choice Items

  1. It's difficult to develop multiple-choice items that accurately assess a candidate's understanding of a concept.
  2. Students can be encouraged to memorize discrete items of information rather than develop an overall understanding of the topic if they are aware of multiple-choice items being included in a test.

Many people believe there are serious limitations to the information that can be evaluated using multiple-choice items. Concerns have included the following: "How hard can a question be when the correct answer is right in front of the person?" and "Isn’t it impossible to test a person on high-level decision making using multiple-choice questions?”

People who subscribe to these beliefs have not been properly trained on the principles of writing quality multiple-choice items. Apart from hands-on motor or sensory skills, a properly designed multiple-choice item can assess nearly any knowledge or decision-making process regardless of industry, cognitive complexity, or difficulty level.

The Basics

Here is an image where you can visualize the elements of a multiple-choice item:

  • Item: An item is another way to reference a test question. A multiple choice test question is a type of item. However, for the purposes of this education, these terms will be used interchangeably.
  • Stem: This is the premise of the multiple choice item. It is usually in the form of a written statement or question. Candidates need to solicit the best response based on the information presented in the stem.
  • Response Options: These (A-D) represent the options that the candidate must choose from when answering a question. Items typically consist of two to five response options.
  • Key: A "key" is another word for the correct answer of an item. For conventional multiple-choice items there is typically only one keyed response.
  • Distractor: A distractor is an incorrect response options. The notion is that these options are meant to distract the candidate. These should be plausible or conceivable answers, but still incorrect.


  • No labels