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4.2: GUIDELINES FOR CONSTRUCTION

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    For the test to be effective, it is important that students understand it. Otherwise, the teacher has no idea of whether erring students simply do not know the answer or are confused by item wording or test format.

    The stem of the multiple-choice item should vividly and succinctly present a problem that is answered by the correct option. The item can be presented as an incomplete sentence or simply as a question:

    Incomplete Sentence

    _____ The year Columbus first came to the New World was

    A. 1865.

    B. 1861.

    C. 1776.

    D. 1492.

    Question

    _____ In what year did Columbus first come to the New World?

    A. 1865

    B. 1861

    C. 1776

    D. 1492

    The incomplete sentence is often preferred, but use it only if it can be stated clearly and understandably. Rather than risk an awkward statement, which can involve time-consuming and questionable interpretation, state the item in question form. In either case, the item should usually be stated positively. When a negatively stated stem is preferred, the negative word (e.g., not ) should be underlined or in italics so that the intent of the stem is clear.

    _____ Which of the following is not a southern state?

    A. Alabama

    B. New York

    C. Mississippi

    D. Louisiana

    Format the options vertically rather than horizontally for ease of isolation and comparison. As an additional deterrent to pupil confusion, make the options proportionately shorter than the stem, which also eases the comparison between possible solutions and the problem.

    Teachers often wonder about the optimal number of options. Though there is a range of three to six options, having four or five seems to be the norm. Yet, whether you prefer four or five options, you should be completely consistent throughout the test, thus providing uniformity of structure that promotes concentration by eliminating the uneasiness that often accompanies uncertainty.

    As we have stressed, students should not miss an item because of awkward wording or confusing format. They also should not make the correct response because of unintentional clues given by the test constructor, such as the patterning or consistent placement of correct responses. It does not take observant students long to discover an ABCD pattern or to see that the third option is most often the correct response. Such patterns and consistencies are understandable when you recognize the habitual nature of people (notice how students usually sit in the same classroom seats, even when not assigned). The roll of a single die will ensure that your correct answers are randomly placed.

    To make certain that there is one best answer, less-competent test constructors often make the correct option considerably longer or noticeably shorter than the distractors. In either case, the students may well select the correct option not because they know the answer, but because they recognize unintentional clues.

    Another attempt to provide for a best response is the inclusion of the “All of the above” option. Although this is acceptable, it should not always serve as the correct response; sometimes it should be a distracter.

    “None of the above” is another favorite option of neophyte test makers. A primary reason for its favored status is that neophyte teachers have exhausted their supply of plausible distractors. Since many students understand this, the item now has three, rather than four options.

    LEVELS SUITABLE FOR MEASUREMENT

    A teacher-made test should be a representative sample of the material that has been taught. If it accomplishes this, it has what is known as “sampling validity,” which means that the test is a representative sample of the material covered. Nevertheless, virtually all teacher-made tests should have this quality; and an assurance to attaining this attribute is to use your instructional objectives as a basis for the actual test items.

    As previously emphasized, the multiple-choice test provides for measurement of the major content, daily living skills, and employability training areas of most of the hierarchical levels within Bloom’s basic taxonomy. The following examples will demonstrate this, while simultaneously serving as models for construction of the multiple-choice item.

    KNOWLEDGE: Recognition and recall of previously learned information; no comprehension or understanding of the information is implied

    Mathematics (May be administered orally)

    You will probably want to assess your student’s knowledge of the basic addition combinations.

    _ C _ The sum of 3+4 is

    A. 5

    B. 6

    C. 7

    D. 8

    A knowledge-level item in that it focuses on a memorized addition combinations, the stem is direct and devoid of ambiguities, and the options are brief, with plausible distractors and a single correct answer.

    Science (May be administered orally)

    After discussions about the Age of Reptiles, you may wish to see how much your student has remembered about these discussions.

    _ B _ Which of the following animals lived during the Age of Reptiles?

    A. Tigers

    B. Pterodactyls

    C. Lions

    D. Wolves

    Aware of their discussions, you may use written or verbally administered multiple-choice items to determine what your student has remembered from these discussions. This particular item has a proportionately long stem, short plausible decoys (they are all wild animals), and one correct answer.

    Social Studies (May be administered orally)

    Following a discussion of U.S. Presidents, you may wish to test your student’s recall of these discussions.

    _ D _ The first President of the United States was

    A. Abraham Lincoln

    B. George W. Bush

    C. Thomas Jefferson

    D. George Washington

    Knowledge-level in its dictate for the recall of information, this item has a relatively long, but clear and straightforward stem, short, plausible decoys, and one correct answer.

    English-Language Arts (May be administered orally)

    Aware that the recognition of memorized definitions is a knowledge-level process, you may want to test your student’s knowledge of certain definitions.

    _ A _ “The name of a person, place, or thing” is

    A. A noun

    B. A verb

    C. An adjective

    D. An adverb

    Since its emphasis is on a memorized definition, this is a knowledge-level item. Avoiding clues to the correct response, the indefinite articles (a, an) are placed in the options rather than in the stem, which is clear and to-the-point,

    Daily Living Skills (May be administered orally)

    Early in the year, you may wish to determine whether your student knows her teacher’s name.

    _ B _ Your teacher’s name is

    A. Ms. Brown

    B. Mr. Washington

    C. Mr. Garcia

    D. Ms. Jabar

    Demonstrating knowledge of a person’s name reflects knowledge without understanding; and regardless of whether this item is administered orally or in writing, the stem is clear, and the options are brief, with plausible decoys and a single correct answer.

    Employability Training Skills (May be administered orally)

    You may wish to determine whether your student remembers the roles associated with specific occupations.

    _ D _ In a supermarket, the butcher

    A. Operates the cash register

    B. Stocks shelves

    C. Replaces produce

    D. Cuts meat

    This item requires that the student know, rather than understand, one of the roles of a butcher, which is knowledge-level. Furthermore, its stem is clear and to-the-point, and the options are short and easily discernable.

    COMPREHENSION: The ability to understand or summarize information; translate information from one form or level to another; predict continuations in trends of data.

    Mathematics (May be administered orally)

    Understanding that translating information from one form to another is a component of comprehension, you may decide to test your student’s comprehension of this process with different expressions of numbers.

    _ C Which of the following numbers is another form of ■ ■ ■ ■?

    A. 2

    B. 3

    C. 4

    D. 5

    Comprehension-level in that it requires the student to understand that the numerical 4 is an expression of four squares, this item has a clear stem and brief options with plausible decoys, and one correct answer.

    Science (May be administered orally)

    Fully aware that the ability to see phenomena in their concrete (the actual phenomenon), semi-concrete (a picture of the phenomenon), and abstract (written or oral name of the phenomenon) form is a component of comprehension, you may decide to determine whether your student can comprehend the same phenomenon at these different levels.

    B _ Which of these animals did we see on our filed trip to the zoo?

    A.

    image11.jpg

    B.

    image14.jpg

    C.

    image13.jpg

    D.

    image18.jpg

    This is a comprehension-level item because the student must make the transfer from the concrete (the actual lion at the zoo) to the semi-concrete (a picture of a lion). Whether administered verbally or in writing, the stem is proportionately long, but free of ambiguities, the options are short, the decoys plausible, and there is only one correct answer.

    Social Studies (May be administered orally)

    After several discussions and readings regarding the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments, you may decide to determine how much of these readings and discussions your student has comprehended.

    _ D _ The First Amendment provides for freedom

    A. of religion

    B. to bear arms

    C. to hold meetings

    D. of speech

    By definition, comprehension is synonymous with understanding, and a component of the comprehension level is the ability to summarize information. This item dictates that the student understand a basic summary of the First Amendment. Additionally, the stem is clear and to-the-point, and the options are brief, with three plausible distracters and one correct answer.

    English-Language Arts (May be administered orally)

    Whether the student is reading a story to herself, or listening to a story read by her teacher, it is important that she comprehend or understand the story. Hence, you may want to test your student’s comprehension of a given story.

    _ C _ Which of the following was not used in building any of the houses of the three little pigs?

    A. Bricks

    B. Sticks

    C. Concrete

    D. Straw

    Whether administered orally or in writing, this item tests the student’s comprehension of a specific element of the story: the materials used in building the three houses. Moreover, its stem is direct, and the options are short, with plausible decoys and a single correct answer; and the word not is in bold type so as to avoid confusion.

    Daily Living Skills (May be administered orally)

    A general understanding of where to purchase different commodities is an important life skill. After several discussions relating to this importance, you may want to test your student’s understanding of the general offerings of local businesses.

    _ D _ A hardware store would most likely sell

    A. Used cars

    B. Fresh produce

    C. Sheets and towels

    D. Lawn equipment

    This item necessitates a general understanding (comprehension) of the offerings of one of the local businesses. Furthermore, the item has a clear and distinct stem, along with three brief and plausible decoys, and a single best answer.

    Employability Training Skills (May be administered orally)

    Continuing established patterns is an element of many vocational processes. Understanding this, you may want to determine if your student can comprehend continuations in color patterns.

    _ A _ What is the next color in the following sequence?

    RED BLUE YELLOW GREEN RED

    A. BLUE

    B. GREEN

    C. YELLOW

    D. RED

    This is a comprehension-level item because it calls for the understanding of a trend in data. Moreover, the stem is clear and unambiguous, and the options are short, with plausible decoys and only one correct answer.

    APPLICATION: At this level, the student must demonstrate the ability to take information that has been acquired and comprehended, and use it in a concrete situation.

    Mathematics (May be administered orally)

    After the student has acquired and demonstrated comprehension of her addition combinations, you may want to see if your student can use these addition skills in concrete situations.

    _ D _ If Maria has 3 pencils and James has 2 pencils, how many pencils do the children have together?

    A. 3

    B. 2

    C. 4

    D. 5

    Application-level whether administered orally or in writing, this item dictates that the student use her knowledge and understanding of addition combinations in a concrete situation. The stem is clearly stated and the options are brief, the decoys are believable, and there is only one correct answer.

    Science (May be administered orally)

    The ability to read maps, charts, and graphs is essential to virtually every subject, and science is certainly no exception. With this in mind, you may wish to introduce such skills to your student in efforts to show him another way in which scientific information may be presented.

    image16.png

    _ A _ According to the above chart, how many inches of snow fell in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the 2012-2013 season?

    A. 57.4

    B. 42.7

    C. 61.7

    D. 49.1

    This is an application-level item because the student must apply his chart-reading skills in the solution of an actual problem, which is precisely stated in the stem of the item. Moreover, the options are short, the distracters are plausible, and there is a single correct answer.

    Social Studies (May be administered orally)

    The ability to read a road map is enhancement, if not essential to many people. Hence, you will probably want the student to develop this ability.

    image21.png

    _ A _ From the map above, which is the direct route from Slippery Rock to Butler?

    A. Route 8

    B. Interstate 79

    C. Route 422

    D. Route 19

    Since the student must use his map skills to answer this item correctly, she will be applying them in a concrete situation (application). The options are short, and the decoys are believable because all of the routes are shown on the map. Additionally, the word “direct” provides for a single correct answer.

    English-Language Arts (May be administered orally)

    Aware that correct grammar usage can be both a social and a vocational enhancement, you will want to guide your student toward this proficiency and away from common misusages. Additionally, you know that the multiple-choice test is a suitable means for measuring your student’s ability to apply what she has learned in this area.

    _ D _ Which of the following sentences is not correct?

    A. I have no money.

    B. I do not have any money.

    C. I haven’t any money.

    D. I do not have no money.

    By selecting the correct response through examining the four options, the student is applying what she knows about negatively stated sentences. The stem clearly and succinctly specifies what the student is to do, the options are compact, the decoys are plausible, and there is one best answer. Moreover, the term not is in bold type, so as to prevent confusion.

    Daily Living Skills (May be administered orally)

    The ability to read a face clock is a life skill that should be mastered, if possible. The multiple-choice item lends itself to measurement of the application of this skill.

    Image result for 6:00 pm clock

    _ B _ What is the time shown by this clock?

    A. 12:00

    B. 6:00

    C. 12:06

    D. 6:12

    This is an application-level item in that the student must apply his clock-reading skills to select the correct option, which is short and to-the-point. Also, the stem presents a brief and understandable problem, and the distracters appear logical.

    Employablitiy Training Skills (May be administered orally)

    The calculator and the ability to use it are essential components of many vocations. Recognizing this, you will probably want to test your student’s proficiency with this instrument. The multiple choice item is a suitable device for doing so.

    _ C _ Using your calculator, compute the sum of 401+375+460+522

    A. 1678

    B. 1658

    C. 1758

    D. 1768

    This is an application item because it requires not only the use of a calculator in a concrete situation, but the adding of four-digit numbers is also an application-level task. Additionally, the stem is direct, and the options are brief and contain realistic decoys and a single correct answer.

    ANALYSIS: At this level, the student should be able to demonstrate the ability to break down a unified whole into its basic parts and understand he relationships among these parts; determine cause and effect relationships; and understand analogies and metaphor.

    Mathematics (May be administered orally)

    When you are confident that your student is comfortable with numerical place values, you may want to find out if he can analyze groups of numbers.

    _ B _ Which is the largest number?

    A. 17

    B. 14

    C. 19

    D. 15

    This is an analysis-level item in that the student must compare each of the numbers and then determine which is the largest.

    Science (May be administered orally)

    Acknowledging that the demonstrated ability to decipher analogies is a component of the analysis level, you can use the multiple-choice item to sample your student’s ability to see analogies.

    _ D _ Boy is to girl as colt is to

    A. Calf

    B. Cub

    C. Shoat

    D. Filly

    An analysis-level item in that the student must see an analogous relationship, this item has a proportionately long stem, short options, plausible distracters, and provides for a single correct answer.

    Social Studies (May be administered orally)

    You will probably want to determine the extent to which your student can see commonalities between the different levels of government (federal, state, local). The multiple-choice test is a suitable instrument for making this determination.

    _ C _ President is to Vice-President as Mayor is to

    A. Governor

    B. Secretary

    C. Mayor Protem

    D. City Manager

    Analysis-level in that the student must demonstrate understanding of an analogous relationship, the stem of this item tersely presents a problem that is answered by a best answer, which is situated among three plausible distractors.

    English-Language Arts (May be administered orally)

    Almost infinite wisdom is to be gained through literature. Realizing this, you may wish to determine if your student has learned indirect, but intended lessons from her readings.

    _ B _ The moral of The Little Engine that Could (Piper, 1978) is

    A. Little engines can talk

    B. Always try your best

    C. Little engines go uphill and downhill

    D. Never leave home alone

    This is an analysis-level item in that the student must analyze the story in order to arrive at the correct response. Its stem distinctly presents a problem, which has a single, proportionately brief answer, placed among three similar and believable distractors.

    Daily Living Skills (May be administered orally)

    Healthful nutritional choices are important daily living skills. With this realization, you may want your student to make analytic comparisons to determine the most healthful choice among given alternatives.

    _ D _ The most nutritional snack is a

    A. Chocolate bar

    B. Box of popcorn

    C. Piece of apple pie

    D. Package of raisins

    In this analytic process, the student must take careful comparisons among the four options to arrive at the correct response. The stem of the item sets forth a clearly stated problem that is answered by a single, but brief, best answer that blends in with three realistic distracters. Also, it should be noted that the indefinite article “a” is in the stem rather than in the options. This exception occurs because all of the options begin with consonants.

    Employability Training Skills (May be administered orally)

    As an employability skill, the student should be able to classify and make discriminations among tools with respect to their purposes. Thus, you can use the multiple-choice item as a suitable means for measuring such skills.

    _ B _ Which of the following does not belong?

    A. Hammer

    B. Nail

    C. Screwdriver

    D. Pliers

    This is an analysis-level item because it requires the student to make fine discriminations as she classifies the tools according either to their active or passive usage. Structurally, the term not is underlined to enhance clarity in a stem that tersely presents a problem, which is answered by a single best response, placed among three brief and plausible decoys.

    SUMMARY

    The multiple-choice test is powerful and versatile, providing for wide coverage in a relatively short period of time and allowing for measurement of both basic and higher-order thinking processes. However, poorly constructed items can negate these strengths. The multiple-choice item is easily adaptable to any area and it also provides for measurement at the Knowledge, Comprehension, Application, and Analysis levels.


    This page titled 4.2: GUIDELINES FOR CONSTRUCTION is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Edwin P. Christmann, John L. Badgett, & Mark D. Hogue.

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