Multiple Choice Questions

Definition: MCQs are structured assessments in which questions are presented and followed by two or more possible choices from which the test-taker selects the correct answer.  A true-false questions is the simplest example of a MCQ but generally MCQs provide 3 or more alternatives from which to choose.

Application: They are quite useful in assessing knowledge and understanding of facts and principles important to a field of study.

Role in Assessing higher order thinking (HOT) skills:  Although MCQs can also be used to assess higher order thinking skills such as application, analysis, and evaluation, test designers need to expend considerably more effort and time to design and pilot test these kinds of skills.

Advantages:  Major advantages of MCQs are the ease with which these assessments can be scored, their susceptibility to varied statistical and trend analyses, and their potentially high reliability.  Consequently, MCQs are frequently used in large classes and in high volume testing situations such as college entrance and professional competency assessment.

Disadvantages:  Major disadvantages are the difficulty in constructing higher order questions, the sometimes limited applicability of such questions to actual professional practice, the passive nature of test requirements, and the necessity to maintain tight security in high stakes situations.

Before studying best practices, a few definitions of terms used for the components of MCQs are helpful.

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