Validating multiple choice test items

Because students can typically answer a multiple choice item much more quickly than an essay question, tests based on multiple choice items can typically focus on a relatively broad representation of course material, thus increasing the validity of the assessment.

The key to taking advantage of these strengths, however, is construction of good multiple choice items.

When “none of the above” is used as an alternative, test-takers who can eliminate a single option can thereby eliminate a second option.

In either case, students can use partial knowledge to arrive at a correct answer. Plausible alternatives serve as functional distractors, which are those chosen by students that have not achieved the objective but ignored by students that have achieved the objective.

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Second, a scientific basis for test item writing has been slow to develop (Cronbach, 1970; Haladyna & Downing, 1989a, 1989b; Haladyna, Downing, & Rodriguez, 2002; Nitko, 1985; Roid & Haladyna, 1982).

The most comprehensive and authoritative book in its field, this edition has been extensively revised to include: • more information about writing items that match content standards; • more information about creating item pools and item banking; • a new set of item-writing rules (with examples) in chapter 5, as well as guidelines for other multiple-choice formats; • hundreds of examples including an expanded chapter 4 devoted to exemplary item formats and a new chapter 6 containing exemplary items (with author annotations); • a chapter on item generation (chapter 7) featuring item modeling and other procedures that speed up item development; and • a more extensive set of references to past and current work in the area of multiple-choice item writing and validation.

This book will be of interest to anyone who develops test items for large-scale assessments, as well as teachers and graduate students who desire the most comprehensive and authoritative information on the design and validation of multiple-choice test items.

Multiple choice test items can be written to assess various levels of learning outcomes, from basic recall to application, analysis, and evaluation.

Because students are choosing from a set of potential answers, however, there are obvious limits on what can be tested with multiple choice items.

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