Structure of Multiple Choice Questions

Structure of Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple Choice Questions a practical approach

Following up with the slightly less pedantic articles here in the blog, this week we’ll have a look at multiple choice questions and polls. And I’ll try to avoid the dry, boring, approach that this topic is usually associated with.

Furrowing his brow, a young student stares at the paper before him. He hates logic questions. With complete disregard to the child’s personal preferences, staring up at him from the page in black bold print is the following:

What is left behind if you take a bone from a dog? (Yup, the one on the opening picture! Not looking really temperamental, I know).

The youth raises his eyes from the test on his desk and gives his teacher the briefest of glares. He has a feeling that if this were a multiple choice question, he would get it right. The boy knows that the most obvious answer is the dog. However, this is a query of logic. The most obvious solution is often incorrect. (When you get right down to it, that in itself is extremely puzzling.) He ponders.

The answer, of course, is his temper. Being that if you take a bone from a dog, he will lose his temper. Soon the dog will get up and leave (you did, after all, just take its bone. He has no reason to hang about.) and only his temper will remain.

If this sensible answer was listed on the paper in front of the frustrated student, he might then get the answer right and earn those two points he needs to pass this fictitious class.

Most common formatting of multiple questions

Multiple choice questions are handy little things to have on a test, as they present to you several answers that you can select from. One of them is guaranteed to be correct, so you have (usually) a one in four chance of possibly passing your exam with each chosen answer.

The flip side of that lucky little coin is the fact that in many instances, two of the answers will be so maddeningly similar that it’s quite easy to pick the incorrect solution. The student will still have to pay attention and study the subject matter prior to the quiz in question.

The structure of multiple choice questions depends on what kind of information the instructor is attempting to glean from the students. The most common form of multiple choice question is when the query is stated and possible solutions are in a list below the question, as follows:

What is left behind if you take a bone from a dog?

  • A. The Dog
  • B. The Bone
  • C. His Temper
  • D. You

If the instructor (or exam writer, if this is standard testing and not made up by the teacher) is kind, one of the answers will be glaringly incorrect. It cannot be “B” because you took the bone. That leaves three possible solutions. This has now become a process of elimination.

Another form that the multiple choice question can be found in is known as fill-in-the-blank, as follows:

______ is/are left behind if you take a bone from a dog.

  • A. The Dog
  • B. The Bone
  • C. A Dog’s Temper
  • D. You

This option requires reformatting, as the question must be changed into a statement and a sharp eye must be kept out for grammatical errors. Neglecting to present the option of “is/are” in the previous scenario would automatically rule out answer “D”, as “is” would not compute following “You”. Some students will catch this. The instructor in this case, after all, is teaching a logic class.

Other uses beyond simple tests

The multiple choice question can be used in a number of subjects, not limited to simply logic and English. This style of inquiry can also be employed on a math exam. The equation can be presented as the question, with possible answers listed below.

If a+b=5 and a is 3 then what is b?

  • A. 1
  • B. 4
  • C. 2
  • D. -8

As one can gather from these examples, “C” tends to be the correct answer. Students reading this, bear this in mind. Teachers reading this should take note as well. And perhaps make “D” the right solution in some of your problems.

In the end, everyone loves a multiple choice question. Even when you graduate and leave school for good (not that one should ever stop learning something every day) you still rely upon multiple choice.

Just imagine: how would you feel if you went in on voting day to cast your ballot and find that you can only vote for a candidate if you can correctly remember and spell their name? No write-ins; if you don’t enter the proper name in the proper category on the correct line, your vote is null and void. You do not pass.

I imagine that there would be a great deal of studying the night before a big election. (We may be on to something here, actually — looks like the dog is considering a political career!)

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