Creating Selected Response Questions

This article is all about creating good selected response question. Selected response question types are multiple choice, matching, true and false, as well as fill in the blank or short answer questions. Below we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using each selected response question type as well as some tips for creating well-constructed and meaningful questions for your assessments.

True and False Questions


  • Can cover a lot of facts in a short space
  • "Easy” to construct
  • Can assess distinguishing fact and opinion
  • Can assess identifying cause and effect


  • Can usually only assess simple recall of facts
  • The “right” answer is often obvious
  • Not necessarily easy to construct “good” items
  • Ambiguity may promote merely “guessing.”

Some things to keep in mind when creating true and false questions

  • Phrase items carefully to assess recall. Don’t use new terminology on an exam that you haven’t used in class.
  • Avoid negative statements.
  • Restrict one item to one concept. If you have a question that asks students to recall multiple events or definitions and they see one as true and one as false, you will end up assessing a guess.
  • Make statements equal in length. Statements will vary in length but try and word them, so students don’t have to read a single sentence for one question and five sentences for the next. This will also help you keep your items restricted to one concept.

Matching Items


  • Can evaluate a large amount of factual material quickly
  • "Easy” to construct
  • Students are assisted in finding the correct answer


  • Often assess only reading or inference skills
  • Require clear and explicit directions
  • Often assess “searching” rather than “thinking”
  • Difficult to create good consistent related lists

Some things to keep in mind when constructing matching items

  • Use brief lists. Try not to use more than ten matches per question.
  • Employ homogeneous lists. Focus on one concept rather than multiple concepts for a single matching question. If there are multiple concepts, they should be interrelated. For example, dates on one side and years on the other. If you mix and match names or objects into these lists, it can become confusing rather than challenging to students.
  • Include more responses than premises. If you have six phrases on the left and six items on the right, you should consider adding a few more items to the right column to make the question more challenging.
  • Describe the rules for matching. If you want students to match an event with a date, be sure to state this in brief instructions for the question.

Multiple Choice Items


  • Very versatile format
  • Can assess low-to-mid cognitive levels
  • Can provide feedback on student understanding and misunderstanding
  • Quick and easy to score


  • Very difficult to create good items
  • Test only recognition of a correct answer
  • Can not reliably assess higher cognitive level

Some things to consider when constructing multiple-choice items.

  • The stem must be self-contained. Do not use partial phrases or fill in the blank type statements for multiple-choice stems.
  • Ensure that all alternatives are plausible but...
  • Ensure that only one alternative is indisputably correct
  • Avoid negatively stated stems.
  • Ensure alternatives are grammatically consistent. This includes tense. If using past tense, use it consistently for all alternatives.
  • Ensure that the correct responses randomly occur in all positions. Our LMS(Moodle)can help you with this as well, but it is good practice to switch it up.
  • Never user “all of the above.” This can be read ambiguously by students in that they can choose a single alternative and state that it is still correct.
  • Occasionally use “none of the above.” Not as ambiguous as the previous mentioned “all of the above” but should still be used sparingly. Also, keep in mind if you use Moodle to randomize your answers, “none of the above” may end up as your first choice.