Multiple-Choice Questions: Tips for Optimizing Assessment In-Seat and Online

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Multiple-choice questions are frequently used in college classrooms as part of student assessment. While multiple-choice assessments (compared to other formats such as constructed response) seem to be the preferred method of testing by instructors and students, their effectiveness in assessing comprehension in college courses is sometimes called into question. Research has shown that there are ways to optimize the construction and use of multiple-choice testing to benefit college classroom instruction and assessment, student learning, and performance, and to more efficiently utilize instructor’s time and energy. This teacher-ready research review provides an overview of the research on utilizing multiple-choice questions as well as some tips on using, writing, and administering multiple-choice questions during assessments. We also summarize the benefits and potential issues with using multiple-choice questions including concerns about cheating, ways to detect and deter cheating, and testing issues and strategies unique to online formats. We hope that this short review will be helpful to instructors as they prepare courses and assessments and further encourage the use of empirical data in pedagogy related decision-making.

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