Call Us: US - +1 845 478 5244 | UK - +44 20 7193 7850 | AUS - +61 2 8005 4826


Constructing Effective Alternatives

1. All alternatives should be plausible. The function of the incorrect alternatives is to serve as distractors,which should be selected by students who did not achieve the learning outcome but ignored by students who did achieve the learning outcome. Alternatives that are implausible don’t serve as functional distractors and thus should not be used. Common student errors provide the best source of distractors.

2. Alternatives should be stated clearly and concisely. Items that are excessively wordy assess students’ reading ability rather than their attainment of the learning objective

3. Alternatives should be mutually exclusive. Alternatives with overlapping content may be considered “trick” items by test-takers, excessive use of which can erode trust and respect for the testing process.

4. Alternatives should be homogenous in content. Alternatives that are heterogeneous in content can provide cues to student about the correct answer.

5. Alternatives should be free from clues about which response is correct. Sophisticated test-takers are alert to inadvertent clues to the correct answer, such differences in grammar, length, formatting, and language choice in the alternatives. It’s therefore important that alternatives

  • have grammar consistent with the stem.
  • are parallel in form.
  • are similar in length.
  • use similar language (e.g., all unlike textbook language or all like textbook language).