Faculty Development & Learning Assessment

Test Construction for Closed-Answer or “Objective” Tests


Objective tests have the advantages of allowing an instructor to assess a large and potentially representative sample of course material and allow for reliable and efficient scoring. The disadvantages of objective tests include a tendency to emphasize only “recognition” skills, the ease with which correct answers can be guessed on many item types, and the inability to measure students’ organization and synthesis of material.

One way to write multiple choice questions that require more than recall is to develop questions that resemble miniature “cases” or situations. Provide a small collection of data, such as a description of a situation, a series of graphs, quotes, a paragraph, or any cluster of the kinds of raw information that might be appropriate material for the activities of your discipline. Then develop a series of questions based on that material. These questions might require students to apply learned concepts to the case, to combine data, to make a prediction on the outcome of a process, to analyze a relationship between pieces of the information, or to synthesize pieces of information into a new concept.

Here are a few additional guidelines to keep in mind when writing multiple-choice tests:

Adapted from: Indiana University Teaching Handbook. (2007). Teaching Methods: Test Construction. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from Indiana University Web site: http://teaching.iub.edu/finder/wrapper.php?inc_id=s2_7_assess_03_tests.shtml