Multiple Choice Questions Definition

Multiple choice test items consist of a number of components:

  • The item stem is where one lays out the question and needed context. Generally, factual questions require little or no context.  Higher order thinking questions requiring skills such as analysis or evaluation typically require a paragraph, chart, photograph, etc. to analyze or evaluate.
    Examples of item stems with minimal context are

    • Who was the first president of the United States?
    • When would it be appropriate to use a chi square test?
    • An example of an item stem with context is the following:
      • Which of these statements best describes the relationship between Variable X and Variable Y?
  • Alternatives consist of the two or more choices to answer the question.  In most cases, students are required to choose one and only one of the alternatives.
  • Distractors are alternatives that are incorrect.
    • In answer to the question “Who was the first president of the United States?” possible distractors could be Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison.
  • The Keyed Response is the correct alternative.  In answer to the first president question, the keyed response would be George Washington.