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How to Design Effective Multiple-Choice Tests that Assess Student Learning. Debra Dunlap Runshe Instructional Development Specialist University Information Technology Services - Learning Technologies Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. March 22, 2010. Webinar Objectives.

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How to design effective multiple choice tests that assess student learning

How to Design Effective Multiple-Choice Tests that Assess Student Learning

Debra Dunlap Runshe

Instructional Development Specialist

University Information Technology Services - Learning Technologies

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

March 22, 2010


Webinar objectives
Webinar Objectives Student Learning

By the end of this webinar, participants will be able to:

  • describe strengths and limitations of multiple-choice tests.

  • evaluate appropriate uses of multiple-choice tests.

  • explain guidelines for constructing multiple-choice items.

  • learn how to create questions that address the different levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  • review examples of effective and ineffective multiple choice tests.

  • write multiple choice questions at different cognitive levels.


About multiple choice tests
About Multiple-Choice Tests Student Learning


About multiple choice tests1
About Multiple-Choice Tests Student Learning

Students select the correct answer from alternative responses. Each item has:

  • item stem

  • correct or keyed option

  • several distractor options

    Format:

  • complete question

  • incomplete question

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Multiple choice test construction
Multiple-choice Test Construction Student Learning

“… the greater your experience in their construction, the longer it takes per [multiple-choice] item to construct a reasonably fair, accurate, and inclusive question.”

- Wilbert J. McKeachie


Bloom s cognitive domain
Bloom’s Cognitive Domain Student Learning

Evaluation

Synthesis

Analysis

Application

Comprehension

Knowledge

A Resource for Question Verbs: http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/assessment/multiplechoicequestions/blooms.html


Advantages
Advantages Student Learning

Multiple-choice items can provide:

  • versatility in measuring all levels of cognitive ability,

  • highly reliable test scores,

  • scoring efficiency and accuracy,

  • objective measurement of achievement or ability,

  • a wide sampling of content or objectives,

  • a reduced guessing factor compared with true-false items, and

  • different response alternatives which can provide diagnostic feedback.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Limitations
Limitations Student Learning

Multiple-choice items:

  • are difficult and time-consuming to construct,

  • lead an instructor to favor simple recall of facts,

  • place a high degree of dependence on the student’s reading ability and instructor’s writing ability, and

  • are particularly subject to clueing. (Students can often deduce the correct response by elimination.)

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


When to use
When to Use Student Learning

  • To assess breadth of learning

  • To test a variety of levels of learning

  • When you have a large number of individuals taking the test

  • When you have time to construct the test items

  • When time is limited for scoring

  • When it is not important to determine how well individuals can formulate their own answer

  • When you want to prepare individuals for future assessments that use a similar format

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Planning a test
Planning a Test Student Learning


General tips for writing tests
General Tips for Writing Tests Student Learning

  • Compose test items over time.

  • Test what you really want individuals to learn.

  • Check borrowed items carefully.

  • Create a test bank.

  • Start easy to build confidence.

  • Get feedback on items.

(Nilson, 2010)


Planning a test1
Planning a Test Student Learning

  • Use a test matrix or blueprint.

  • Identify major ideas and skills

    rather than specific details.

  • Use Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy

    or something appropriate for

    your context.

(Nilson, 2010)


Test matrix
Test Matrix Student Learning

Additional Techniques for Writing Multiple-Choice Items: http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/assessment/multiplechoicequestions/sometechniques.html


Objectives at different levels
Objectives at Different Levels Student Learning

Level: Knowledge

Objective: State the average effective radiation dose from chest CT.

What is the average effective radiation dose from chest CT?

  • 1 mSv

  • 8 mSv

  • 16 mSv

  • 24 mSv


Objectives at different levels1
Objectives at Different Levels Student Learning

Level: Comprehension and application

Objective: Compare the radiation exposures from different radiologic examinations.

Which of the following imaging examinations is associated with the highest effective radiation dose?

  • Abdominal and pelvic multidetector CT

  • Coronary artery multidetector CT

  • Conventional pulmonary angiography

  • Digital pulmonary angiography


Objectives at different levels2
Objectives at Different Levels Student Learning

Level: Problem solving

Objective: Explain the effects that various factors have on radiation dose from chest CT.

Which of the following actions would decrease the radiation dose from chest CT the least?

  • Decreasing mA from 250 to 125

  • Decreasing kVp from 140 to 120

  • Decreasing the pitch from 2 to 1

  • Decreasing scan time from 1 to 0.5


Constructing test items
Constructing Test Items Student Learning


Writing items
Writing Items Student Learning

  • Write items on significant concepts, not trivial facts.

  • Write items that have a definite answer.

  • Communicate clearly.

  • Don’t give away the answer by including irrelevant cues in the item.

  • Don’t write items that require skills or knowledge irrelevant to what you are trying to measure.

  • Have items reviewed by knowledgeable persons other than the composer of the question if possible.

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Components
Components Student Learning

Stem: presents the problem

Correct or keyed options: correct option

Distractor options: incorrect options

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Developing an item
Developing an Item Student Learning

  • Choose an important concept

  • Write the stem

  • Write the correct answer (key)

  • Develop distractors

    • common misconceptions

    • errors that could be made

    • plausible, yet less important information

    • similar in style, length to the key

    • every distractor should be reasonable

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Issues related to testwiseness
Issues Related to Testwiseness Student Learning

• grammatical cues

• logical cues

• absolute terms

• long correct answer

• word repeats

• convergence strategy

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Issues related to irrelevant difficulty
Issues Related to Irrelevant Difficulty Student Learning

• options long

• numeric data not stated consistently

• vague terms

• language not parallel

• options in no logical order

• “none of the above” is used

• stems tricky or unnecessarily complicated

• answer to an item is “hinged” to the answer of a related item

(Clegg & Cashin, 1986)


Writing stems
Writing Stems Student Learning

• Ensure that the directions in the stem are very clear.

  • Include the central idea in the stem instead of the choices.

  • Avoid window dressing (excessive verbiage).

  • Word the stem positively, avoid negatives such as NOT or EXCEPT. If negative words are used, use the word cautiously and always ensure that the word appears capitalized and boldface.

(Haladyna, Downing & Rodriguez, 2002)


Writing stems1
Writing Stems Student Learning

Avoid statements that fail to present a complete thought or question.

Schizophrenia

  • is caused by excessive role playing in childhood.

  • causes hallucinations.

  • is a tendency toward ritualistic behavior.

  • is a psychosocial disorder.

    Better:

    Schizophrenia

  • an alternation between two or more personalities.

  • a tendency toward ritualistic behavior.

  • a fragmentation of psychological functioning.

  • an inability to inhibit emotional outbursts.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems2
Writing Stems Student Learning

Avoid stems that ask for a series of multiple true-false responses.

Which of the following is true about the middle adult years?

  • It encompasses ages 19 to 30.

  • It is the most conflict-free period of life.

  • It is characterized by dramatic changes in our sense of values.

  • It is marked by a conflict between intimacy and isolation.

    Better:

    According to Erickson, the middle adult years are characterized by the conflict between ____ and ___ .

  • intimacy; isolation

  • generativity; stagnation

  • integrity; despair

  • industry; despondency

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems3
Writing Stems Student Learning

Eliminate excessive wording and irrelevant information.

Sheldon developed a highly controversial theory of personality based on body type and temperament of the individual. Which of the following is a criticism of Sheldon’s theory?

  • He was influenced too much by Freudian psychoanalysis.

  • His ratings of physique and temperament were not independent.

  • He failed to use an empirical approach.

  • His research sample was improperly selected.

    Better:

    Which of the following is a criticism of Sheldon's theory of personality?

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems4
Writing Stems Student Learning

Include in the stem any word(s) that might otherwise be repeated in each alternative.

The receptors for the vestibular sense are located

  • in the fovea.

  • in the brain.

  • in the middle ear.

  • in the inner ear.

    Better:

    The receptors for the vestibular sense are located in the

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems5
Writing Stems Student Learning

Use negatively stated stems sparingly. When used, underline and/or capitalize the negative word.

Which is not a major technique for studying brain function?

  • accident and injury

  • cutting and removing

  • electrical stimulation

  • direct phrenology

    Better:

    Which is NOT a major technique for studying brain function?

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems6
Writing Stems Student Learning

When using incomplete statements avoid beginning with the blank space.

___ is the least severe form of behavior disorder.

  • Psychosis

  • Panic disorder

  • Neurasthenia

  • Neurosis

    Better:

    The least severe form of behavior disorder is ___ .

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems7
Writing Stems Student Learning

Use familiar language.

According to Freud the raison d’être for hysteria was

  • sexual conflicts.

  • unresolved feelings of guilt.

  • latent tendencies.

  • repressed fear.

    Better:

    According to Freud hysteria was caused by …

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing stems8
Writing Stems Student Learning

Provide sufficient information in the stem to allow students to respond to the question.

How many interrelated stages to creative problem solving are there?

  • Three

  • Four

  • Seven

  • Ten

    Better:

    The textbook indicates that there are ___ interrelated stages to creative problem solving.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

  • Develop as many effective choices as you can, but research suggests three is adequate.

  • Make sure that only one of these choices is the right answer.

  • Vary the location of the right answer according to the number of choices

  • Place choices in logical or numerical order.

  • Keep choices independent; choices should not be overlapping.

(Haladyna, Downing & Rodriguez, 2002)


Writing item alternatives1
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

  • Keep choices homogeneous in content and grammatical structure.

  • Keep the length of the choices about equal.

  • None-of-the-above should be used carefully.

  • Avoid All-of-the-above.

  • Make all distractors plausible.

  • Use typical errors of students to write your distractors.

  • Use humor if it is compatible with the teacher and the learning environment.

(Haladyna, Downing & Rodriguez, 2002)


Writing item alternatives2
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

  • Phrase choices positively; avoid negatives such as NOT.

  • Avoid giving clues to the right answer, such as:

    • specific determiners including always, never, completely, and absolutely.

    • clang associations, choices identical to or resembling words in the stem.

    • conspicuous correct choice.

    • pairs or triplets of options that clue the test-taker to the correct choice.

    • blatantly absurd, ridiculous options.

(Haladyna, Downing & Rodriguez, 2002)


Writing item alternatives3
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Make sure there is one correct or best response.

Which of the following does not belong with the others?

  • Wundt

  • Structuralism

  • James

  • Titchener

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives4
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Make all alternatives plausible and equally attractive to both less-knowledgeable and skillful students.

The number of photoreceptors in the retina of each human eye is about

  • 1000,000.

  • 2 million.

  • 115 million.

  • 2.37 billion.

    Better:

  • 5 million.

  • 35 million.

  • 65 million.

  • 115 million.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives5
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Minimize the use of the all-of –the-above and none-of-the-above alternatives.

Problem representation involves

  • determining which factors matter and which do not.

  • the initial state of problem solving.

  • both a and b.

  • neither a nor b.

    Better:

  • determining which factors matter and which do not.

  • the initial state of problem solving.

  • reducing the problem to manageable segments.

  • all of the above.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives6
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Use between three and five alternatives for each item.

What function is performed by the sensory neurons?

  • Receive information from the environment.

  • Carry information from the central nervous system to the muscles.

  • Connect one neuron to another.

  • Are only found inside the brain.

    Better:

  • Receive information from the environment.

  • Carry information from the central nervous system to the muscles.

  • Connect one neuron to another.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives7
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

All alternatives should be approximately equal in length.

Latane and Darley smoke-filled room experiment suggested that people are less likely to help in groups than alone, because people

  • in groups talk to one another.

  • who are alone are more attentive.

  • in groups do not display pluralistic ignorance.

  • in groups allow others to define the situation as a non-emergency.

    Better:

    Latane and Darley smoke-filled room experiment suggested that people are less likely to help in groups than alone, because people

  • talk to one another.

  • are less attentive than people who are alone .

  • do not display pluralistic ignorance.

  • allow others to define the situation as a non-emergency

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives8
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Make alternatives parallel in construction and consistent with the stem.

Which of the following is NOT a defense mechanism?

  • Conflict.

  • Repression.

  • Reaction formation.

  • Rationalization.

    Better:

  • Rationalization.

  • Repression.

  • Reaction formation.

  • Regression.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives9
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

When possible, present alternatives in some logical order (e.g., most to least and chronological .)

In the course of a dark adaptation , the eye’s best sensitivity to wavelength shifts to

  • 580 millimicrons.

  • 477 millimicrons.

  • 505 millimicrons.

  • 600 millimicrons.

    Better:

  • 600 millimicrons.

  • 580 millimicrons.

  • 505 millimicrons.

  • 477millimicrons.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives10
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Make the alternatives mutually exclusive.

Rods are found in the

  • blind spot.

  • fovea.

  • periphery of the retina.

  • back of the eye.

    Better:

  • blind spot.

  • periphery of the fovea.

  • periphery of the retina.

  • cornea.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives11
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Avoid overly wordy alternatives that become confusing and difficult to read.

Flooding differs from systematic desensitization in that

  • the former is based on classical conditioning and the latter on operant conditioning.

  • systematic desensitization requires insight and the flooding does not.

  • flooding has you start at the top of your fear hierarchy and systematic desensitization has you start at the bottom and work up gradually.

  • flooding emphasizes the use of cognitions to a much greater extent than does systematic desensitization.

    Better:

    Flooding differs from systematic desensitization in that flooding

  • is based on classical conditioning rather than operant conditioning.

  • doesn’t require insight.

  • starts at the top of the fear hierarchy.

  • places greater emphasis on the use of cognitions.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives12
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Avoid irrelevant cues such as grammatical structure, well-known work associations, or connections between the stem and the correct answer.

School psychologists who examine and place children in special education settings often apply the research done by

  • biopsychologists.

  • educational psychologists.

  • clinical psychologists.

  • counseling psychologists.

    Better:

    School psychologists often apply the research done by

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Writing item alternatives13
Writing Item Alternatives Student Learning

Avoid language that may offend or exclude a particular group of individuals.

Which of the following is a characteristic of persons with Down’s syndrome?

  • Larger than normal head

  • Obesity

  • Oriental-like skin folds over the eyes

  • Above average height.

    Better:

  • Larger than normal head

  • Obesity

  • Downward sloping skin fold over the eyes

  • Above average height.

(Ory & Ryan, 1993)


Critiquing test items
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning


Critiquing test items1
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is considered to be:

  • an adventure story.

  • a science-fiction story.

  • an historical novel.

  • an autobiography.

    Could be either A or B; should have one best answer.


Critiquing test items2
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

When a court possesses appellate jurisdiction this means that it

  • must have a jury.

  • has the power or authority to review and decide appeals.

  • can conduct the original trial.

  • can declare laws unconstitutional.

    The term “appeal” in B is too close to “appellate” in the stem.


Critiquing test items3
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

Which of the following men invented the telephone?

  • Bell

  • Morse

  • Pasteur

  • Salk

    C & D are not plausible distractors and the answer (A) is too obvious.


Critiquing test items4
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

The indicator found by correlating students’ scores on a classroom math test with their scores on a standardized math test is called a

  • validity coefficient.

  • index of reliability.

  • equivalence coefficient.

  • internal consistency coefficient.

    The end of the stem is “a” which only matches answer (A).


Critiquing test items5
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

In order to determine the criterion-related validity of a test, one would

  • correlate the test scores with an appropriate criterion.

  • correlate the scores from the odd and even items.

  • correlate the scores from forms a & b of the test.

  • correlate the scores from two administrations of the same test.

    “Correlate the” should be included in the stem. Also both (A) and the stem have the same word, “criterion.”


Critiquing test items6
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

The state that is not south of the Mason-Dixon line is

  • Mississippi.

  • Florida.

  • Kentucky.

  • Vermont.

    “Not south” could trip up students and should be replaced by “north” OR the negative should be underlined or highlighted (e.g. “NOT South”). Again, answer (D) is too easy.


Critiquing test items7
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

Which one of the following is the best source of heat for home use?

  • Gas

  • Electricity

  • Oil

  • Geo-thermal

    “Best” is too vague. Why not use “cheaper,” “more efficient,” etc. The answer is also geographically dependent.


Critiquing test items8
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

 Important early theorists in the psychology of learning included

  • Ebbinghaus.

  • Thorndike.

  • Pavlov.

  • None of the above.

  • All of the above.

    The stem says “theorists” so there must be more than one. (E) is the right answer. Another problem is the answer tends to be “all of the above” in this type of question. If the student can see 2 that are correct, it must be “all of the above.”


Critiquing test items9
Critiquing Test Items Student Learning

In a normal distribution, the mean and the median are

  • always the same point.

  • never the same point.

  • usually very close to one another.

    (A) and (B) are absolutes, which are usually incorrect. (C) is also longer.


Item analysis
Item Analysis Student Learning


Item analysis1
Item Analysis Student Learning

  • Review items for accuracy

    and formatting

  • Have a colleague read

    and give feedback

  • Item difficulty (percentage

    of students who answered

    each item correctly)

  • Item discrimination


Summary
Summary Student Learning

  • Multiple-choice tests can be useful measures of learning.

  • Write questions to assess the cognitive level of interest.

  • Follow guidelines for writing effective multiple choice questions.

  • Review student performance on items and revise exams as needed.


Questions
Questions? Student Learning


Thank you for your participation
Thank You for Your Participation! Student Learning

Debra Dunlap Runshe, Instructional Development Specialist

University Information Technology Services – Learning Technologies

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Information Technology and Communications Complex (IT 342H)535 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202

Phone: 317-278-0589 

Email:[email protected]


Resources
Resources Student Learning

Clegg, V. L., & Cashin, W. E. (1986). Improving multiple-choice tests. Idea Paper No. 16, Center for Faculty Evaluation and Development, Kansas State University. http://www.idea.ksu.edu/papers/Idea_Paper_16.pdf.

Davis, B. G. (2009). Tools for teaching. (2nd ed.).San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Haladyna, T. M., Downing, S. M., & Rodriguez, M. C. (2002). A review of multiple-choice item-writing guidelines for classroom assessment. Applied Measurement in Education, 15(3), 309-334.  

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. (3rd ed.)San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ory, J.C. & Ryan, K. E. (1993). Tips for improving testing and grading. Vol. 4. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.


Resources1
Resources Student Learning

Svinicki, M. & McKeachie, W. J. (2011). McKeachie's teaching tips: Strategies, research, and theory for college and university teachers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

University of Oregon, Teaching Effectiveness Program. Writing Multiple Choice Questions that Demand Critical Thinking. Web site: http://tep.uoregon.edu/resources/assessment/multiplechoicequestions/mc4critthink.html

University of Minnesota, Office of Measurement Services. Writing Multiple Choice Items. Web site: http://oms.umn.edu/fce/how_to_write/multiplechoice.php

University of Texas at Austin, Instructional Assessment Resources. Writing Multiple Choice Items. Web site: http://www.utexas.edu/academic/ctl/assessment/iar/students/plan/method/exams-mchoice-write.php


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