Nature of Multiple-Choice Items discussion

The authors of your textbook discuss the strengths and limitations of multiple-choice items. Describe each strength and limitation. Confine your answer to one page. No Plagiarism

Here is the Book info:

Waugh, C. K & Gronlund, N. E. (2013). Assessment of student achievement (10th ed).

Boston: Pearson

I have copied/pasted a few items from the textbook:

Nature of Multiple-Choice Items

The multiple-choice item consists of a stem, which presents a problem situation, and several alternatives (options or choices), which provide possible solutions to the problem. The stem may be a question or an incomplete statement. The alternatives include the correct answer and several plausible wrong answers called distracters. The function of the latter is to distract those students who are uncertain of the answer.

The following items illustrate the question form and the incomplete-statement form of a multiple-choice item.


Which one of the following item types is an example of a supply-type test item?

Multiple-choice item.

True-false item.

Matching item.

* Short-answer item.

An example of a supply-type test item is the

multiple-choice item.

true-false item.

matching item.

* short-answer item.

Although stated differently, both stems pose the same problem. Note, however, that the incomplete statement is more concise. This is typically the case. The question form is easier to write and forces the test maker to pose a clear problem but tends to result in a longer stem. An effective procedure for the beginner is to start with a question and shift to the incomplete statement whenever greater conciseness can be obtained.

The alternatives in the preceding examples contain only one correct answer, and the distracters are clearly incorrect. Another type of multiple-choice item is the best-answer form in which the alternatives are all partially correct but one is clearly better than the others. This type is used for more complex achievement, as when the student must select the best reason for an action, the best method for doing something, or the best application of a principle. Thus, whether the correct-answer or best-answer form is used depends on the learning outcomes to be measured.


Which item is best for measuring computational skill?

Multiple-choice item.

True-false item.

Matching item.

* Short-answer item.

The examples given illustrate the use of four alternatives. Multiple-choice items typically include three, four, or five choices. The larger number will, of course, reduce the student’s chances of obtaining the correct answer by guessing. Theoretically, with five alternatives there is only one chance in five of guessing the answer, whereas with four alternatives there is one chance in four. It is frequently difficult to obtain five plausible choices, however, and items are not improved by adding obviously wrong answers. See Box 6.1 for strengths and limitations of multiple-choice items.

BOX 6.1 Multiple-Choice Items


Learning outcomes from simple to complex can be measured.

Highly structured and clear tasks are provided.

A broad sample of achievement can be measured.

Incorrect alternatives provide diagnostic information.

Scores are less influenced by guessing than true-false items.

Scoring is easy, objective, and reliable.


Constructing good items is time consuming.

It is frequently difficult to find plausible distracters.

This item is ineffective for measuring some types of problem solving and the ability to organize and express ideas.

Score can be influenced by reading ability.

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