Multiple-choice question definition
A multiple-choice question is a question type where the respondent is asked to choose one or more items from a limited list of choices. A multiple-choice question consists of a stem, the correct answer, and distractors.
The stem is the beginning part of the item that presents the item as a problem to be solved, a question, or an incomplete statement to be completed. The options are the possible answers you can choose from, with the correct answer called the key and the incorrect answers called distractors.
This complete guide on how to create efficient multiple-choice questions is a great resource if you want to use MC questions in your next survey.
There has been much debate whether multiple-choice questions are useful. We've listed their biggest advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages of multiple-choice questions
- They have fast processing times
- There's no room for subjectivity
- You can ask more questions, it takes less time to complete a multiple-choice question compared to an open question
- Respondents don't have to formulate an answer but can focus on the content
Disadvantages of multiple-choice questions
- While they are fast processed, they are time-consuming to create: they require time to draw up effective stem questions and corresponding choices
- They don't produce any qualitative data, solely quantitative
- They limit the respondent in his answers, that's why it's important to provide an "other" option with a textbox
Multiple choice question tips
- Use simple sentence structure and precise wording
- Make all options plausible
- Keep all answer choices the same length
- Avoid double negatives
- Mix up the order of the correct answers (when testing knowledge)
- Keep the number of options consistent
- Avoid tricking test-takers, you should test their knowledge, not their reading skills