Design of Multiple-Choice Questions

There are several strategies you can use to help you succeed on the more difficult exam questions.

First, let’s look at the structure of a multiple-choice question in the sample question below. Pay close attention to the vocabulary used to describe the parts of the question.

Courtesy of ADLC

Courtesy of ADLC
The correct answer is called the key. The other (incorrect) alternatives are called distractors. The alternatives can be listed in a few ways. Typically, they are arranged in a pyramid by length: either shortest to longest or longest to shortest. However, if the alternatives all refer to lines from the text, they usually are listed in the order they appear in the text.

There is no pattern to the answers themselves. In other words, don’t expect your answer sheet to be a pretty pattern of ACDCACDC. That said, answers should be varied. If all your answers are D, you will want to have a second look!