Multiple-choice Question Formats

There are many different formats of MCQs. Some are especially well suited for certain types of content. Some are particularly good for testing higher-order learning. Some are inherently ‘easier' or ‘more difficult' than others. Four basic types will be described here with notes about their specific uses and advantages.

A. One-Choice Completions - Best Answer

This is the most commonly used MCQ format. It is simply a short-answer question with a number of alternatives to choose from. Some evaluation experts believe that this is the only type of MCQ that should be used because other formats are more susceptible to ambiguity and test wiseness.


B. Multiple-Choice Completions

This MCQ format allows for more than one correct answer and hence avoids the need for "all of the above" or "more than one of the above is correct", etc. It also makes the question inherently more difficult since the student is not just look­ing for one correct response among four incorrect responses. However, the intent of this format is not to test four separate points but rather to set up an interpretive exercise. Usually the instructor is still just testing one concept. When it is the instructor's intent to set a more difficult question on a topic, it is preferable to use this format rather than to increase the level of difficulty of a one-choice completion by including very obscure points (which are often not important points).


C. Quantitative and Functional Relationships

Two other types of MCQ formats are useful for content which deals with quantitative and/or functional relationships. They are generally best for knowledge/comprehension but can sometimes be used to test higher-order learning objectives.