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The Quiz Maker: Mistakes to Avoid When Designing a MCQs-based Quiz

The Quiz Maker: Multiple Mistakes Staining Multiple Choices

In one of our previous blogs of “The Quiz Maker” series (Designing MCQs-based Quiz to Induce Higher-Level Thinking)we discussed tips on how to design a MCQs based quiz that induces higher level of thinking in an examinee. Today, we will be reviewing some common mistakes that examiners commit while designing a MCQs based quiz for the assessment purpose. If you too are laying out plans for your next MCQs quiz, make sure that you walk through the following list before publishing the prepared assessment through a quiz creator.  


Mistake #1: Designing MCQs to Test the Facts

Most of the examiners tend to design MCQs that are directed towards testing the knowledge about facts of an examinee rather than their actual understanding of the subject.

Although, it does no harm nor is the practice wrong. But, in essence if you aren’t evaluating the understanding of the candidate of a subject under discussion, you are undermining the true objective of the assessment.  

What Should You Do: As an examiner your responsibility should be to urge students to explore the why of the problem, rather than the what of it. This induces higher level of thinking in the candidates which translates to a more established assessment criterion.

Mistake #2: The Use of Absolute Terms

This mistake is related to the wordings of the designed MCQs, rather than the intent of the developed questions. Some examiners use absolute terms like “Never True” and “Always True” in the wording of the MCQs.  

The concept of absolutes, depending on the subject, more often than not is non-existential and as such it can force students to argue the case. They get confused with the validity of the options provided and either end up selecting the wrong option or avoid answering it altogether.

What Should You Do: Rather than use absolute wordings that can incite judgmental thinking in a candidate, the examiner should rather opt for using terms like “Best” or “Least Likely”, aligning with the concept of the question that is being asked.  

Mistake #3: The Grammatical Incorrectness

In many MCQs based quizzes, you will come across questions where the stem of the MCQ does not grammatically align with the options that follow. This creates confusion in students. As a result, instead of choosing the correct answer, they let the grammatical instinct overshadow their evaluative thinking. Here is what we are referring to:

Question: A one stroke under par score in golf is referred to, as a:

a) Bus

b) Birdie

c) Eagle

d) Albatross

Do you think that options “c” and “d” hold any grammatical integrity with the wordings of the MCQ stem?

What Should You Do: Review all your questions before publishing them on an online quiz creator and make sure they are grammatically aligned. If in the stem you have asked for a plural answer, then all your options should be plurals. If in the stem you have asked for an answer that is a noun, you cannot provide verbs in the options.

What other mistakes do you believe examiners tend to commit when designing a MCQs based quiz? Please share your views in the comments section below.

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