Writing Effective Quiz Questions

15 Tips for Writing Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple choice is a form of assessment in which learners are asked to select the best possible answer from a list of choices.  Multiple choice questions are often used because they can be scored rapidly, providing quick feedback to students.  Also, they are efficient when assessing large numbers of students over broad content. An important consideration in constructing multiple choice items is to make them measure learning rather than test-taking skills of “test wise” students. The suggestions here are designed to help you with writing your multiple choice questions.

15 Tips for Writing Proper Multiple Choice Items

  1. The stem of the question should clearly indicate what the student is to do (e.g., identify the best answer, find the most recent accomplishment, identify the answer with the best order of events, etc.). Often, poorly worded questions do not clearly state what the student is to do.

  2. Use the words ‘best answer’ rather than ‘most correct answer’ as there may be exceptions and this phrasing will avoid any arguments.

  3. The stem should be in the form of a question and be worded positively if possible. Irrelevant material should be avoided.

  4. Use capital letters (A. B. C. D.) rather than lower case letters (e.g., “a” gets confused with “d” and “c” with “a” for those with vision problems, poor photocopying, dyslexia, etc.)

  5. Construct four suggested choices (alternatives).  Research indicates 4-5 are a good number.

  6. One alternative is the correct answer.  This answer has to be clearly the best or only answer.

  7. Three alternatives are incorrect or inferior alternatives (distracters). The purpose of the distracters is to appear as plausible solutions for those students who did not study. Do not use absurd or fun distracters as they would just give away the answer or make is far easier to guess from fewer plausible choices. Try to make all the distracters as closely related as possible. This is the most challenging part of creating multiple choice questions.

  8. Make all responses fairly equal in length. Avoid making the correct response either the longest or the shortest in length.
  9. Put options in a logical order, if possible. (e.g., alphabetical, chronological).

  10. Make sure all the grammar, punctuation, and spelling are correct.

  11. Avoid grammatical clues to the answer (e.g. an, a – which indicate a vowel/non-vowel word)

  12. If “no” or “not” is used, underline it. Try to avoid using negative constructions in the stem.

  13. Try to avoid using “all of the above” and use “none of the above” sparingly.

  14. Avoid using the words “never, all, none, always” (they often indicate an incorrect response) and words such as “often, seldom, sometimes” (they often indicate a correct response).

  15. Place the correct answer in each possible position equally often.

Writing Effective Test Questions

Writing effective test questions can be a challenging task, especially when a test is being used to measure learning outcomes. You need to assess your learners for how well they are meeting learning outcomes, but can you influence their success by the test questions you write? Absolutely! We have 7 Guidelines for Writing Effective Test Questions that will help you with your next assessment of learning.

See the handout: Outsmarting Test Savvy Students

Using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

When asking questions either in oral or written form, it is wise to vary your questions across all 6 categories of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Benjamin Bloom was a university professor and in 1956 he devised three domains of learning (cognitive, affective and psychomotor). Bloom’s cognitive domain seems to be referenced more as it outlines 6 levels of thinking skills. Still in use today, it has undergone one significant revision. In 2001, Lorin Anderson (a former student of Bloom) replaced the nouns with verbs (Knowledge is now Remembering) and switched the last two categories around.

See the handout:  Questioning for Quality Thinking

Approximate Length of Time for Test Item Answering

This will help you in determining the length of a test and/or how long you will give students to complete test.

Item Type

Average Time


30 s


1 min

MC – Higher level

1.5 min






30 s / response

Short Essay (Written Answer)

10 - 15

Extended Essay

30 min

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Writing Well-Constructed Multiple Choice Questions

Advantages and Disadvantages of Test Items

Questioning for Quality Thinking

Using Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Questioning for Quality Thinking