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Complements to Blackboard: Constructing Effective Multiple Choice Questions

Posted by on Monday, February 8, 2016 in News.

Did you know that you can create tests or quizzes in Blackboard and have students take them online? The on-demand resources page of our website includes a guide to creating a test. The testing feature allows instructors to set up different types of questions, several of which are automatically graded.

While Blackboard may help streamline the technical side of assessment, a test can only be effective if it contains well-designed questions. To help with this aspect of assessment, CFT Assistant Director Cynthia Brame has created a teaching guide called “Writing Good Multiple Choice Test Questions” that synthesizes recent research on the topic.

Here are some highlights from the teaching guide:

Multiple choice is a good test for some things, but not for others.

Basic Recall

Organizing thoughts
Articulating explanations
Creative ideas

Advantages: Versatility, Reliability, Validity

Structure of a multiple choice question:


  • Answer
  • Distractor
  • Distractor
  • Distractor


Many of the following pointers help to ensure the test is designed so that students are not expending mental energy deciphering the format of the question, and instead can focus on solving the problem posed by the content of the question.


  • Create a meaningful stem
  • Make sure alternatives are mutually exclusive
  • Use parallel constructions for alternatives/make them homogenous
  • Avoid complex alternatives that refer to each other (e.g., “A and C”)
  • Test higher-order thinking
  • Design problems that require multilogical thinking


  • Include irrelevant info in the stem
  • State the stem negatively if it can be rephrased positively
  • Use blanks in the stem
  • Include implausible alternatives
  • Provide any (unintentional) clues in the alternatives
  • Use “all of the above” or “none of the above”


To learn about the rationales behind these recommendations, go check out the teaching guide!