Maximizing the Effectiveness of Multiple-Choice Qs

Below is a quick activity that is easily adaptable for most class settings. It maximizes the effectiveness of multiple-choice questions and is a wonderful way for students and teachers to assess student learning. I really like this activity, because unlike most involving multiple-choice questions, this template makes use of all answer choices and requires students effortfully work with all of the material.

Another reason I really like this is its ability to cover a lot of material in a few questions.  If you have 10 questions with 5 answer choices, the students could feasibly interact with 50 different snippets of material.  As you can see below, the student has to interact with the question stems in various ways:

  • With the correct answer the student must either provide a memory aid they used to help them choose this answer OR provide a sketch that illustrates the term or concept covered.
  • With the incorrect answers, students must:
    • Use the ‘trickiest’ incorrect answer to describe why this answer is most likely to trip up students and potentially lead students to choosing this answer.
    • Rewrite the question to make this incorrect answer the correct answer.
    • Give an example relating this answer to the student’s life.
    • Link this answer to information from a previous lesson/unit or to information learned from another class.

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How can you use this in your class?

How could you modify the template for use as a study guide, for homework, or as a quiz grade in class?

What other ideas do you have to help students interact with the answers?




  1. I really like this! What a great way to encourage deeper thinking. A number of years back I produced two different documents, with a little help from my colleagues, and we called it ‘I Know I’m Close Multiple Choice’.

    We found it to:

    (1) Widen the window for students to demonstrate understanding

    (2) Identify poorly-worded questions

    (3) In many cases it brought to light that students could think about their thinking MC situations.

    The supplemental version was produced in response to a university professor I met on a flight who had 300 students who all used ScanTron bubble responses.

    I couldn’t find a way to paste it here, so try this link…

    Myron Dueck
    Grading Smarter Not Harder – ASCD

  2. Looks great, except I don’t understand why you would ask students to relate the incorrect answer to their lives.

    1. Even if students are interacting with the answer that may be wrong for a particular question, the information may still be needed for understanding of other material. The main goal of the strategy is to have students cognitively interact with all material…retrieving information that will, hopefully, be accessible later.

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