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Assessing by multiple choice question (MCQ) tests

Edwina Higgins and Laura Tatham, Manchester Metropolitan University

This teaching resource note sets out to:

  • explain the features of multiple choice questions (MCQs) and suggest possible uses of them in your teaching
  • explore the advantages and disadvantages of multiple choice assessments and suggest mechanisms to counter potential problems
  • provide guidance on planning MCQ tests and tips for writing MCQ questions and feedback
  • give examples of MCQs with suggestions for improvement
  • give suggestions for further reading and resources

It is organised around a set of 12 frequently asked questions (FAQs), plus a guide to further reading (Note: question examples shown based on the law as at 1 September 2002.)

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is an MCQ?
  2. What could I use MCQs for?
  3. What are the features of MCQs?
  4. Does adopting MCQ assessment mean ‘dumbing down’?
  5. Are MCQ scores unrealistically high?
  6. Can students guess their way to success in an MCQ?
  7. Can MCQs test oral and written skills?
  8. Does using MCQ assessment encourage rote or surface learning?
  9. What should I think about before I design an MCQ test?
  10. How can I write effective MCQs?
  11. How can I provide effective feedback for my MCQs?
  12. What can I learn from the student responses to the MCQs?
  13. References and further reading

Last Modified: 4 June 2010