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The Question Document

The questions in this project are designed for learning rather than testing. This affects the way the questions are asked, the sequence in which the questions are presented, and the number of possible answers offered.

It is important to provide the participants with a single, clear question, one correct answer, and alternative answers that will draw on the students' knowledge or intellectual abilities such as comprehension or application skills. There is no need for the traditional five possible answers. What is more important than the number of possible answers is that the answers offered lead to an insightful selection of the correct answer.

The order in which the questions are asked is important. Students should build knowledge and understanding as they go through the problem set. As a result, the last questions will often be easier to answer correctly than the first ones.

Guidelines for writing multiple-choice questions:
Multiple choice questions are made up of three parts: the stem, the correct answer, and the alternative answers.

Write a single question in a clear and simple language in the stem of the problem. A short statement increases the likelihood that the question will be understood.

Test the clarity of the question by trying to answer it without the help of the possible answers.

Use positive form as much as possible and, if negatives must be used, emphasize them by using bold or capitalization in the stem.

Write all possible answers grammatically consistent with the stem of the problem.

Make sure that the correct answer is clearly the best choice to the informed user and choose alternatives that are conceivable enough to lead to serious thinking. Wrong answers given by students on previous tests are a very good source of alternatives answers.

Avoid "all of the above" and "none of the above" if possible as they are not as challenging as other forms.

Vary the position of the correct answers.

Create your own set of rules if it improves the strength of the question.

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The Biology Project
University of Arizona
Revised: July 2004
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