Research on multiple choice questions

The Wing to Heaven

Since my last posts on multiple choice questions (here and here), Kris Boulton and Joe Kirby have pointed me in the direction of Robert Bjork’s work on remembering and forgetting. Here’s an extract from a paper titled ‘Multiple-Choice Tests Exonerated, at Least of Some Charges: Fostering Test-Induced Learning and Avoiding Test-Induced Forgetting’. The authors accept that multiple choice questions are often not good tests, but argue that this is because they are done badly rather than because of any intrinsic flaw.

The present work demonstrates that properly constructed multiple- choice practice tests can be important learning events for students. Achieving “proper construction” of such tests— which requires that incorrect alternatives be plausible, but not so plausible that they are unfair—is, however, a challenge. As any teacher who has used multiple-choice tests can testify, writing good multiple-choice items is very hard work, whereas writing poor ones is…

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