The Office of Faculty Development

Teaching & Learning with Multiple Choice Questions

Often instructions default to a multiple choice style assessment strategy with little consideration for writing reliable and valid questions and options. Additionally, these are considered by students to be an opportunity for instructors to “trick them” or that they are the ‘easier’ method of assessment compared to short-answer and essay prompts. 

It isn’t often that this avenue of assessment is considered as an avenue for teaching and learning, but when thoughtfully and creatively implemented, multiple choice questioning can enhance any lesson or assessment. This Teaching Guide will explore exactly that.

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    Examine selected research on Teaching & Learning w/ Multiple Choice Questions: 

    Little, J. L., Bjork, E. L., Bjork, R. A., & Angello, G. (2012). Multiple-Choice Tests Exonerated, at Least of Some Charges: Fostering Test-Induced Learning and Avoiding Test-Induced Forgetting. Psychological Science23(11), 1337–1344. in new window)

    Bjork, E. L., Little, J. L., & Storm, B. C. (2014). Multiple-choice testing as a desirable difficulty in the classroom. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition3(3), 165–170. in new window)

    Hsia, Y., Jong, B., Lin, T., & Liao, J. (2019). Designating “hot” items in multiple‐choice questions—A strategy for reviewing course materials. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning35(2), 188–196. in new window)

    Riener, G., & Wagner, V. (2018). Gender differences in willingness to compete and answering multiple-choice questions—The role of age. Economics Letters164, 86–89. in new window)


    Ready to apply Teaching & Learning w/ Multiple Choice Questions to your teaching? Here are some ideas and strategies to get you started:

    • Listen to the Corresponding Podcast Episode linked below.
    • Multiple Choice can be a fantastic resource for retrieval practice in learning content.
    • Multiple Choice can be an effective method of formative assessment and self-checking content understanding.
    • Peer Written Multiple Choice style questions have viability in learning strategies.
    • Tips for Writing Good Multiple Choice Questions:
      • Ensure your question (stem) is clear & specific
      • Highlight or Bold any Negatives or Rankings (ex: ‘not’ or ‘highest’) in the stem 
      • Avoid the use of “All of the above,” “None of these,” and “Not enough information to answer.”
      • Avoid the use of obvious throw-away distractors.
      • Do not create distractors with the intent to trick a student into thinking they are potentially correct 
      • Distractors should be common errors or misconceptions that students often make.
      • Keep all answer options similar in length and concept depth.
      • Create question pools for online quizzes where students see a random set