Multiple-choice questions are used to give students options for answering a question.
They will typically be lower order questions with a single correct answer amongst a set of incorrect answers.
However, variations can be used, for example, where students are required to identify more than one correct option from a list or to identify the odd one out.
Providing options for students makes this type of question highly accessible for students and makes it easy for every student to respond.
Multiple-choice questions are often used by teachers in tests or at the end of a lesson to check learning.
However, multiple-choice questions can be used at any stage of the lesson and for different purposes other than to simply test a student.
The examples below aim to demonstrate the different types of multiple-choice questions that teachers can ask students in lessons.
What is the capital of France?
Answer: (b) Paris
Which of the following statements is true? A ligament…
(a) joins bone to bone
(b) joins bone to muscle
(c) helps stabilise joints
(d) is an organ
Answer: (a) Joins bone to bone; and (c) helps stabilise joints
Which of the following is not a type of pasta?
Answer: (d) Schillaci
Why would an exclamation mark be used in a sentence?
(a) To express a strong emotion, such as surprise, anger or fear.
(b) To indicate to the reader that a question has been asked.
(c) To connect two independent clauses.
(d) To identify when someone is speaking.
Answer: (a) To express a strong emotion, such as surprise, anger or fear.
There is no benefit to using ‘all of the above’ or ‘none of the above’ as an option when asking multiple-choice questions.
Do not use ‘all/none or the above’ as an option.
Firstly, there is simply no need to use it as an option.
If all the above are correct then the student can just select all the options above.
Similarly, if none of the above are correct then they can simply not select any of the options above.
So it’s use is largely pointless.
Also, this option is usually added when all/none of the above ‘is’ the correct option and students tend to know this and will select it when they see it.
Similarly, if it is used and it is not the correct option, then it can act as a red herring. As teachers we are not trying to trick or catch students out when asking questions so this is not really a good outcome.
Mainly, and most importantly, if a student selects the ‘all/none of the above’ option you can never be completely certain, as the teacher, that the student actually knows the correct answer.
This makes checking learning very difficult.
If you are interested in exploring the most appropriate number of options to provide in a multiple-choice question, it was explored in a journal paper by Vyas and Supe (2008).
There are a number of ways in which you can make multiple-choice questions more or less challenging for students.
Below are six specific ways in which this can be achieved.
I have actually written a full, detailed article which explores the six approaches listed above, so if you are interested in reading more into this you should check out this article:
In this article I explore six ways to make
multiple-choice questions more
challenging for students to answer
with plenty of examples for teachers.
Multiple-Choice questions can be used at any stage of lesson.
A simple lesson starter could utilise multiple-choice questions to either check learning from the previous lesson or check prior understanding to inform the teaching of a new topic.
Using multiple-choice questions at the start of a lesson can be a good way to feed into other learning strategies.
Multiple-choice questions are frequently used in the middle of a lesson, often when using a ‘fringe question’ aimed at checking student understanding before progressing onto a new topic.
The teacher can also use Multiple-choice questions at the end of the lesson as part of a plenary to check learning.
Multiple-choice questions are most commonly used by teachers for tests and exams as they provide a consistent questioning structure for students and allow all students to engage with the question due to the correct answer being available.
Multiple-choice questions are also quite easy to write and produce making them an simple option for questioning and one which all students are familiar with and can easily engage with.
Teachers have a preference for using multiple-choice questions in exams and tests, as they are easy to mark and provide a standardised model for assessment.
When the multiple-choice questions being used are closed questions with a single correct answer it makes assessment or learning very easy for the teacher.
Multiple-choice questions are highly accessible for students as they will always contain the correct answer.
This allows students to make an informed judgement when answering a multiple-choice question.
This same level of accessibility is not always present for other question types.
Multiple-choice questions can be an effective way to check learning and encourage students to recall information and knowledge.
However, they are not typically effective for promoting new thinking and learning due to their broadly closed nature. This can be countered by using open-ended questions when asking multiple-choice questions as this will generate more discussion and debate following student responses.
If you are interested in finding out what my favourite questioning techniques are you should check our the article above.