Lesson 3: Tips On Test Construction
Multiple Choice Questions
- Use adversely stated stems sparingly, and when using negatives, such as not,
underline, or bold the print.
- Use "none of the above" and "all of the above" sparingly. When
using these statements, avoid making them the correct answer all of the time.
- Only one option should be correct or clearly best.
- All options should be homogenous and nearly equal in length.
- The stem (question) should contain only one main idea.
- Keep all options either singular or plural.
- Have four or five responses per stem (question).
- When using incomplete statements, place the blank space at the end of the stem
versus the beginning.
- When possible, organize the responses.
- Reduce wordiness.
- When writing distracters, think of incorrect responses that students might make.
Short Answer and Essay Questions
- Clearly explain what is expected of the student.
- Indicate the number of points each essay question is worth.
- If you are giving students a choice as to what essay questions they can answer,
avoid giving them too many choices and make points equal for each question.
Completion (Fill-in-the-Blank) Questions
- The blank should be in the middle, versus the end or beginning of the question,
so that the student can get as many contextual cues as possible.
- If at all possible, write completion items that can be answered with a single
- Make all blanks the same length, so that the blanks do not provide clues as to
the length of the answer.
- Keep items homogenous.
- Keep everything on one page.
- Put dates in chronological order.
- To prevent the process of elimination, use extra items.
- Include clear directions such as whether or not an item can be used more than once.
True and False
- Keep the length of true and false items similar.
- Have a fairly equal number of true and false items.
- Do not use double negatives.
- As an alternative to the simple true and false forms where the answer is either true or
false, make the option true, false, or opinion.
- Include the statement, "If this statement is false, what makes it false?"
- Items that use qualifiers, such as seldom, usually, and often are usually true.
- Items that use qualifiers, such as never, and always are usually false.
Tips On Test Construction
- Assess information based on the material stressed in class, not
- Have students submit one or two test questions and give extra credit for appropriate
questions. Have them write a question with a correct answer and source.
- Making tests cumulative, gives students an opportunity to integrate the material.
- Use the following to determine how much time students will need to take a test.
Or, allow triple the amount of time it takes you to complete the exam.
- Thirty seconds per true/false item.
- Sixty seconds per multiple choice item.
- One hundred, twenty seconds per short answer item.
- Ten to fifteen minutes per essay question.
- Five to ten minutes for students to review their work.
- Select items that at least fifty to seventy percent of the students can correctly answer, or
are of average difficulty.
- In terms of test reliability, longer tests are considered more reliable than
- Be aware that many of the test banks and/or review books that contain test
questions rarely assess higher levels of learning.
Test Layout Tips
- Include simple, succinct directions such as the following:
- How to record answers if they are not to write on the exam.
- Whether or not to show work on problems.
- The point value for different items.
- Directions on how to use an answer sheet if provided.
- Assemble a professional-looking examination by
- avoiding splitting a test item between two different pages.
- leaving the appropriate amount of space for each item.
- Leave wide enough margins for your comments, points, etc.
- Group similar items together.
- If it is a large exam, it might be worthwhile to group items according to content.
- To build confidence, start with your easiest items in each section.