Multiple choice question

Multiple-choice questions in (digital) assessment

Everyone has taken a test consisting of one or more multiple-choice questions. So why is this test question so popular? And what are valuable tips for preparing good multiple-choice questions?

What is a multiple-choice question?

In both formative and summative tests, the multiple choice question is often used to clarify candidates’ knowledge and skills. In this closed-ended question type, the participant chooses one answer from a list of multiple answer options. Its design is as simple as it seems. Only one of the answer options is correct, and the other options are obviously not.

What is unique about the multiple choice question is that one answer is possible. This contrasts with the multiple select questions, where numerous answer options are possible!

Example and score distribution of a multiple-choice question

Everyone has done a multiple-choice question before. A simple example is as follows.


What colors does Optimum Assessment’s logo consist of?

Answer options:

  1. Red and black
  2. Black and grey
  3. Red and yellow
  4. Grey and orange

Score distribution:

In the above example, you can give 1 point for the correct answer (A). The remaining answer options (B, C, and D) score 0 points.

Advantages, features, and characteristics

Apart from the fact that candidates are generally familiar with this form of assessment, multiple-choice questions have several advantages. These advantages mainly relate to the testing organization.

  • Fast and efficient evaluation: multiple choice questions are quick to review because the results can be processed automatically. This is because an answer is either right or wrong. The software can therefore scan the results.
  • Objective evaluation: the questions oblige the participant to choose one specific answer. This prevents subjectivity in the correction process. Tip: also read how to evaluate open questions objectively.
  • Easy to create and manage: you create and manage multiple choice questions easily with digital testing software. Its design is quite simple.
  • At random testing is possible: digital testing software allows you to randomize answer options. This limits the chance of exam fraud and ensures fair examinations.

Disadvantages of multiple-choice questions

Does this question type have only advantages? Unfortunately, not! Of course, there are also disadvantages to using multiple-choice questions. We list some of them here:

  • Limited knowledge measurement: Multiple-choice questions offer only a limited evaluation of participants’ knowledge and skills. This is because the question type offers only one answer option, which may not be sufficient to comprehend all the material.
  • Chance of guessing: In a multiple-choice question, candidates can think the correct answer. Please take this into account as it affects the reliability and validity of the test.
  • Limited information: Multiple choice questions provide limited information about participants’ knowledge and skills. With only one correct answer, they offer no insight into how participants arrived at their answers. This applies to all closed questions, so be sure to consider using open-ended questions!
  • Not suitable for every assessment: Multiple-choice questions are not ideal for every type of assessment. Consider evaluating skills such as practical skills that cannot be expressed in a single answer.

Tips for composing multiple choice questions

There are some guidelines you can keep in mind when drafting multiple-choice questions.

  • Keep the question concise and specific.
  • Use clear and understandable language.
  • Avoid ambiguity and overlap within answer options.
  • Provide enough answer options to get an accurate picture of the participant’s knowledge.
  • Perform appropriate test technique analysis to improve your exam questions.
  • Check the question and answers for grammatical and language errors.

Are you looking for more general guidelines to streamline your digital testing process? Also, read our blog ‘how to create a good test‘!

Conclusion – multiple choice questions in (digital) assessment

There is a reason why multiple-choice questions are so popular. Its ability to randomize and its quick and efficient assessment make it a popular question type. When constructing a test, always choose the right question type. If you have any questions about this, feel free to contact us. Our test technology consultants will be happy to help you find the best possible assessment experience.

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To find out more about Optimum Assessment’s (support) services, contact us directly. We are always happy to help you find a solution!