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Ideally, the multiple choice question (MCQ) should be asked as a “stem”, with plausible options, for example: If a=1 and b=2, what is a+b?

The key to taking advantage of these strengths, however, is construction of good multiple choice items.

A multiple choice item consists of a problem, known as the stem, and a list of suggested solutions, known as alternatives. The alternatives consist of one correct or best alternative, which is the answer, and incorrect or inferior alternatives, known as distractors.

Constructing an Effective Stem

1. The stem should be meaningful by itself and should present a definite problem. A stem that presents a definite problem allows a focus on the learning outcome. A stem that does not present a clear problem, however, may test students’ ability to draw inferences from vague descriptions rather serving as a more direct test of students’ achievement of the learning outcome.

2. The stem should not contain irrelevant material, which can decrease the reliability and the validity of the test scores (Haldyna and Downing 1989).

irr-material