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Writing effective test questions (Best Practices)

Focus on writing an objective test. Ideally, add at least one test question to each Learning Object and ensure the question addresses the learning objective (see What is a Learning Objective?).

If you are making a bank of test questions for randomizing, ensure the questions are fairly and evenly balanced. One easy way to do this is to copy a question and then simply change the order of the choices in the duplicate. Or, you can alter the wording of the duplicate question slightly (for example, a true or false question could be duplicated and then re-worded for the opposite choice).

Following are a few more tips:

  • Make sure the question stem clearly states the problem through a direct question or incomplete sentence.
  • Reduce redundancy in the choices/options by including these words in the question.
  • Write clearly to eliminate unnecessary and distracting material from the question.
  • Ensure each option follows the same grammatical structure led by the question. Read the question stem and then each option to verify the structure.
  • Avoid “all of the above” or “none of the above” options. If you do use these options, place the option in the last position and do not randomize the choice.
  • In most cases, state the question in a positive rather than negative way (i.e. Don’t use “never” or “not”. In a case where the objective is to be able to identify what NOT to do, then a negative may be called for. In this case, clearly emphasize it in the question by applying bold formatting or all caps).
  • Avoid giving any clues in the options.
  • Use two to four distractors that are plausible.
  • It is often recommended that only one option is correct. Multiple correct options in a question are typically more difficult (and you may want to apply a higher weighting to this type of question).
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