More Tips for Writing MCQs

In my last post about MCQs, I wrote that MCQ questions should have:

  • 3 – 4 options for one correct answer
  • 5 – 7 options for two, three, or four correct answers
  • realistic distractors

and that you should avoid:

  • ‘all of the above’ options
  • ‘none of the above’ options
  • two options that mean the same
  • assumption that the test candidate has prior knowledge about things not covered in your course

In this post, I’d like to demonstrate that MCQs should have:

  • realistic distractors that are not too similar and not too different
  • options that are similar in length
  • options that are similar in structure

and, MCQs should be:

  • specific
  • consistent

and, MCQs should avoid:

  • negatives in stems
  • negatives in options
  • options that are direct opposites

Writing good MCQs isn’t easy. Below are some examples of poorly written MCQs and explanations for why they are not good questions.

Click on the answers to read why these do not work well as MCQs.

Are you guilty of any of the above? I know I am!

Have a go: Re-write any of the above questions to make them better.

Please feel free to share your questions, thoughts and comments below.

Tish Kirkland

English Tutor at YES! IELTS
Instructional Designer, English Language Teacher, IELTS Writing Tutor.

Latest posts by Tish Kirkland (see all)

Tish Kirkland

Instructional Designer, English Language Teacher, IELTS Writing Tutor.

2 thoughts on “More Tips for Writing MCQs

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  • 22nd November 2019 at 7:36 pm
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    I really enjoyed this post Tish !
    Great use of H5P to illustrate the points too 🙂
    I guess a lot of your experience with MCQ’s comes from language teaching – where it’s perhaps even more important that subtleties of the questions, and indeed answers, can be even harder for learners to ‘decode’?

    Reply

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