Multiple choice questions

Multiple choice questions in (digital) testing: what are they and how do they work?

Everyone has ever taken a test that consisted of one or more multiple choice questions. Why is this test question so popular? And what are helpful tips in preparing good multiple choice questions?

What is a multiple choice question?

In both formative and summative assessments, 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. The setup of this 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 there is one possible answer. This is in contrast to the multiple select question (LINK), where multiple answer options are possible!

Example and score distribution of a multiple-choice question

Everyone has been asked a multiple-choice question. A simple example of this is as follows.


What colors does the Optimum Assessment logo consist of?

Answer options:

  1. Red and black
  2. Black and gray
  3. Red and yellow
  4. Gray and orange

Score distribution:

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

Advantages, features and characteristics

Besides the fact that candidates are generally familiar with this form of testing, there are a number of advantages of multiple choice questions. These benefits relate primarily to the reviewing organization.

  • Fast and efficient evaluation: multiple-choice questions are quick to review because the results can be processed automatically. After all, an answer is either right or wrong. So the software can read the results very easily.
  • Objective evaluation: the questions require the participant to choose one specific answer. You thereby avoid subjectivity in the correction process. Tip: also read how to objectively grade open-ended questions.
  • Easy to create and manage: you create and manage multiple choice questions easily with digital assessment software. In fact, its design is quite simple.
  • At random testing is possible: digital assessment software offers the ability to randomize exams. 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 drawbacks to using multiple-choice questions. We name some of them here:

  • Limited knowledge measurement: Multiple-choice questions provide only a limited evaluation of participants’ knowledge and skills. In fact, the question type offers only one answer option, which may not be sufficient to comprehend all the material.
  • Probability of guessing: In a multiple choice question, candidates have the opportunity to guess the correct answer. Keep this in mind as it affects the reliability and validity of the assessment.
  • 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 answer. This of course applies to all closed questions, so be sure to consider the use of open-ended questions!
  • Not suitable for every assessment: Multiple-choice questions are not suitable for every kind of test. Consider evaluating skills that cannot be expressed in a single answer, such as practical skills.

Tips for preparing multiple choice questions

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

  • Keep the question concise and specific.
  • Use clear and understandable language.
  • Avoid ambiguity and/or 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 assessment‘!

Conclusion – multiple-choice questions in (digital) testing

There is a reason why multiple choice questions are so popular. The ability to randomize and the quick and efficient assessment makes it a popular question type. When constructing an assessment, always make sure you choose the correct question type. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us. Our technical consultants are happy to think with you to achieve the optimal assessment experience. Are you looking for a total package for digital testing? Then read more about Optimum Assessment Platform.

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