Multiple-choice tests are both tools for assessment and they enhance learning. Cognitive psychologists of Washington University, U.S.A. have recently made detailed study on improving the efficacy of multiple-choice tests, whose results are published in the Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition.
- Create questions with simple formats. Complex formats encourage guessing and less on recalling correct information.
- Create questions that engage "real world" cognitive processes. Questions that require higher-order thinking will enhance learning and improve future performance.
- Avoid using "none of the above" as answer choice. When "none-of-the-above" is correct, students may not need to retrieve correct information to answer the question and they are exposed a lot of incorrect information.
- Avoid using“all of the above”as answer choice. Using "all of the above" exposes students to a lot of correct information, but answers may be more obvious, robbing students of potential learning that comes from recall processing.
- Use three plausible response options. Question difficulty increases with each answer option offered. Questions that offer too many plausible answers can have a negative effect on both learning and assessment.
- Make the test challenging, but not too difficult. Create tests that are hard enough to reveal how well students know the material, but easy enough that a majority (80 percent) get a passing grade. Challenge students, but allow them to succeed.
Feedback enables test-takers to correct errors and avoid internalizing incorrect information. It also strengthens learning around correct answers that were low-confidence guesses at test time.
To maximize both effectiveness and efficiency, it is also best to keep the process of answering multiple-choice items simple -- added complexity often has a negative effect on both learning and assessment, suggests the study.