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Tips for writing effective multiple choice questions
Tips for writing effective multiple choice questions

How to write good questions for formative assessment

Anna Wallis avatar
Written by Anna Wallis
Updated over a week ago

We thought we'd share some of the guidelines Educake uses to write multiple choice questions for formative assessment.

General tips

  • Write in simple, short sentences.

  • Use simple language (except for important vocabulary)

  • Try to phrase questions in the affirmative. For example, here we've said "avoid negatives" instead of "don't use negatives".

  • Avoid double negatives, as they can be confusing. For example, instead of saying "less unreactive", say "more reactive".

  • Make each question about one thing. For example, let's say a question requires a calculation and also uses difficult vocabulary. If a student gets it wrong, it might not be clear if it was because they didn't understand the calculation or because they didn't understand the vocabulary. It would be better to split it into one question testing vocabulary and one question about the calculation.

  • If you're writing a true/false question, put only one false thing in the statement -- otherwise it could be hard for you to tell what the misconception is

  • Remember that Educake randomises the order that the answers show up in, so avoid answers like "all of the above".


  • If there's an image, mention it in the question.

  • Images should directly relate to the question. If images are just for decoration, they can be confusing or distracting. Students might think there's useful information in the image and spend time trying to figure out what it is.

Wrong answers (distractors)

  • Try to make all the answers plausible. The exception is if you want to provide one that's easy for students to eliminate.

  • Some teachers like to target one misconception in each wrong answer.

  • To reduce guessing, make your incorrect answers roughly the same length as the correct answer.

Further reading:

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