Multiple-choice questions draw criticism because many people perceive that they test only recall or atomistic, surface- level objectives and do not
require students to think. Although this can be
the case, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Open-ended questions are an important
part of both instruction and assessment, and
students should be challenged to both ask and
answer them. However, multiple-choice questions have advantages that make them a useful
part of any teacher’s questioning repertoire.
First, they do not require extensive written
or spoken answers, just a choice. Students
without well-developed oral or written language skills can still show their thinking skills.
Some students particularly like multiple-choice
items for this reason.
Second, you can ask and answer a lot more
multiple-choice questions than open-ended
questions in a given period of time. This means
you can cover the content more extensively,
asking questions about more aspects of the
content students are studying.
So how can teachers write and use
multiple-choice questions to assess higher-order thinking?
Writing Effective Questions
Well-written multiple-choice items conform
to a set of guidelines. They ask or imply a
direct question. They use clear, non-textbook
language that is as simple as possible. The
answer choices are all plausible answers to
the question, arranged as logically as possible.
Ideally, the choices should reflect common
errors in student thinking so that even wrong
answers give students and teachers information
about what students know and can do.
Making the Most of
How to use multiple-choice questions to uncover
Susan M. Brookhart
students’ thinking skills.