How many options is enough for a multiple-choice test item?

  • Haladyna T
  • Downing S
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Textbook writers often recommend four or five options per multiple-choice item, and most, if not all, testing programs in the United States also employ four or five options. Recent reviews of research on the desirable number of options for a multiple-choice test item reveal that three options may be suitable for most ability and achievement tests. A study of the frequency of acceptably performing distractors is reported. Results from three different testing programs support the conclusion that test items seldom contain more than three useful options. Consequently, testing program personnel and classroom teachers may be better served by using 2-or 3-option items instead of the typically recommended 4- or 5-option items.

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  • Thomas M. Haladyna

  • Steven M. Downing

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