MCQ consists of a question followed by alternative answers from which the student has to choose the most correct alternative. The alternative answers may be of the binary type like true/false or include several alternative answers. Even though MCQ are commonly associated with assessing “Remember knowledge”, they may be used for assessing most cognitive processes and types of knowledge. However, writing complex items that are assessing what is intended is difficult and time demanding.

The ALOA model defines the following sub-categories for MCQ:

  • Remember
    • Response requires recall or recognition of one item correct information
    • Question includes who, what, why, when, where, which, choose, find, how, define, label, show, spell, list, match, name, relate, tell, recall, select
  • Understand
    • Response requires recall of more than one correct item of information, may involve a number of unconnected items
    • Test item asks to compare, contrast, demonstrate, interpret, explain, extend, illustrate, infer, outline, relate, rephrase, translate, summarize, show, classify
  • Apply
    • Student discusses knowledge and consequences, but does not relate evidence to conclusion
    • Test item asks to apply, build, choose, construct, develop, interview, make use of, organize, experiment with, plan, select, solve, utilize model, identify
  • Analyse
    • Student correlates and differentiates, is able to distinguish between options
    • Test item asks to discriminate, infer, outline, separate
  • Evaluate
    • Student discusses knowledge and consequences and relates evidence to conclusion
    • Test item asks to award, choose, conclude, criticize, decide, defend, determine, dispute, evaluate, judge, justify, measure, compare, mark, rate, recommend, rule on, select, agree, interpret, explain, appraise, …
  • Create
    • Response relates knowledge and consequences together to make a case and a connection to a related area of knowledge beyond the explicit demand of the question
    • Test item asks to build, choose, combine, compose, construct, create, design, develop, estimate, formulate, imagine, invent, make up, originate, plan, predict, propose, solve, suppose, discuss, modify

 E-assessment implementation of MCQ

Online and computer based testing are used extensively for diagnostic and formative purposes. Its use as summative assessment is also frequent and in, some sectors of Education and training, is already common practice. This type of testing has many advantages since it is very efficient. It allows testing large number of students with a large number of questions thus assessing a wide range of knowledge. It allows the inclusion of rich media files. There are still some issues that prevent the wider adoption in high stakes assessment:

  • Designing good MCQ is a difficult task that usually requires training and practice
  • Using technology raises several security issues, in particular in online tests
  • The need to deal with logistical aspects: computers, connectivity, authentication, security
  • The possibility that non controllable external issues will cause the failure of the test
  • The need to use specific software and consequent training of teachers and students

Computer based test / online testing

Multiple choice questions are a usual component of tests and exams, used for formative and summative assessment. There are many software solutions available that can be used to implement a test using computers, most of them very sophisticated. They offer a range of options to configure the test to the needs of the assessment, from the design of the question and test to the delivery process, feedback and results.

Optical reading

Some teachers will use the software to create and manage question banks, to build tests but won’t use it deliver test to students. Instead, they will print it and grade the paper version or they will use optical reading to transfer the results to a computer. Test analysis is also done using a computer.

CAT: Computerized Adaptive Testing

In adaptive assessment the test is built dynamically from a question database and includes pre-determined rules for selection of the questions that will be displayed to the student. The test will interpret the responses of the students and will make estimates of their ability. This estimate will then be used to select the next question or set of questions, in an iterative process. The process stops when the students reach the predetermined level of competence. CAT demands a large question bank with and hierarchy of items. The validity of this type of testing depends on the quality of the items, the psychometric parameters of the item and the item selection process. More information about CAT may be found at the website C.A.T. Central, including recommended literature.