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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!  


titleWhy Multiple-Choice Questions?
  1. Recognition: Multiple-choice test questions items are the most familiar format of testing content for examineescandidates.
  2. Value: Multiple-choice test questions 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 questionsitems.
  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 questions items are statistically more reliable than other question item types (Haladyna, 2004).
  7. Confidence: The format is a better prediction of other standardized exams likely to be faced by examinee candidates in certification and licensure (Downing and Norchini, 1998).


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



Precautions of Multiple-Choice QuestionsItems

  1. It's difficult to develop multiple-choice questions items that accurately assess an examineea 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 questions items being included in a test.

Many people believe there are serious limitations to the information that can be evaluated using multiple-choice questionsitems. 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 questionsitems. Apart from hands-on motor or sensory skills, a properly designed multiple-choice question item can assess nearly any knowledge or decision-making process regardless of industry, cognitive complexity, or difficulty level.


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

  • 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.