Questions In Lessons

What Are Multiple-Choice Questions?

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.


18 Types Of Questions

Teachers Can Ask In Lessons

Fermi questions are just one of many question types that teachers can ask in lessons.

Read this article to explore other types of questions you could use in your lessons. 

VIDEO: Multiple-Choice Questions Explained

Examples of Multiple-Choice Questions

The examples below aim to demonstrate the different types of multiple-choice questions that teachers can ask students in lessons.

Example 1: Multiple-Choice Question with a Single Correct Option

What is the capital of France?
(a) London
(b) Paris
(c) Berlin
(d) Madrid

Answer: (b) Paris

Example 2: Multiple-Choice Question with Multiple Correct Options

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

Example 3: Multiple-Choice Question to Select the Odd One Out

Which of the following is not a type of pasta?

(a) Penne
(b) Tagliatelle
(c) Orzo
(d) Schillaci

Answer: (d) Schillaci

Example 4: Multiple-Choice Question to Encourage Application of Knowledge

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.

Example 5: Multiple-Choice Question Using an Open-Ended Question

What are Lewin’s (1939) three leadership styles?

(a) Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-Faire
(b) Coaching, Mentoring and Training
(c) Task, Team and Individual
(d) Relationship-orientated, Task-orientated and Bureaucratic 

Answer: (a) Autocratic, Democratic and Laissez-Faire.

Should You Use 'All The Above' or 'None Of The Above' As An Option When Asking Multiple-Choice Questions?

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).

How To Differentiate Multiple-Choice Questions In The Classroom

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. 

  1. Plausibility of options: 
    The more plausible the incorrect options are the more challenging the question will be for students to answer. 
  2. Proximity of options: 
    The closer in proximity each option is the more challenging the question will be for the student to answer. 
  3. Number of options: 
    The more options the student has to choose from the more challenging it will be for the student to select the correct option. 
  4. Multiple correct options: 
    If more than one option is correct the student will have to assess each option in more detail to determine whether it is correct or not. 
  5. Application of knowledge: 
    By asking multiple-choice questions which require students to apply their knowledge, rather than just recalling facts, will provide greater challenge for the student.
  6. Open-ended questions: Rather than asking a closed questions which has a single correct answer, ask an open question where all options are potentially correct, and where the student has to explain and justify their selection. 

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:

6 Ways To Make Multiple-Choice Questions More Challenging For Students


6 Ways to Make
Multiple-Choice Questions
More Challenging For Students

In this article I explore six ways to make
multiple-choice questions more
challenging for students to answer
with plenty of examples for teachers. 

When and How To Use Multiple-Choice Questions In The Classroom

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.

What Are The Benefits of Using Multiple-Choice Questions In Lessons?

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. 


My Top 5 Questioning Techniques for Teachers: Generate More Discussion and Debate

If you are interested in finding out what my favourite questioning techniques are you should check our the article above.

My Top 5 Questioning Techniques for Teachers

Author: Jonathan Sandling