Developing assessment items for classroom testing is a relatively easy task. However, developing quality assessment items can be more challenging. The good news? By following a few simple “item type” guidelines, you can create stronger assessments that can deliver better and more useful information about what your students know and can do.

Guideline #1: Multiple-Choice Items

  1. Make the question self-contained. Ask a complete question and insert all the necessary information to answer it within the question itself. This aids in clarity and makes it straightforward for students to select the correct answer.
  2. Make all answer choices plausible. Incorrect choices must be reasonable so that students can rule them out only because of knowledge or proficiency in the content being assessed.
  3. Keep the length of answer choices similar. Answer choices that are parallel and similar in length will help ensure the student chooses the correct answer because of knowledge, not by whether the statement is long or short.
  4. Make the selection options clear. If students can select more than one answer choice. Include that information in the stem.

TIP: Use multiple-response items (students can select more than one option) instead of “All/None of the Above for a clearer picture of what students know and where the knowledge gaps are.

Guideline #2: True/False Items

  1. Keep the question to one concept or idea. Make the items simple and minimize confusion by making the statement completely true or completely false as stated.
  2. Avoid using negative statements. Negatives are often harder to understand and comprehend, especially double negatives.

Guideline #3: Matching Items

  1. Provide clear directions on how to make the match. It’s important to let students know the design of the matching. If responses can be matched to multiple premises, make that clear in the directions (highlighting helps here too).
  2. Use a homogeneous list of premises and responses. Keep the set of principles similar. For example, don’t mix events with dates or names.
  3. Keep responses short and brief. Premises should not be longer than the responses – they should be brief and parallel in their construction.
  4. Use more responses than premises. Providing more responses than premises prevents students from arriving at an answer through the process of elimination and provides greater understanding about student knowledge.

Regardless of what item type you may be incorporating into an assessment, always start with clear targets and follow general writing guidelines to get the most out of selected-response testing. The tips below may seem intuitive, but the basics form a foundation for high-quality assessment items:

  1. Keep the wording simple and focused on a single topic.
  2. Eliminate clues to the correct answer.
  3. Emphasize critical or key words (most, least, except, etc.).
  4. Review and double-check the scoring key.

Creating better assessments with easy-to-follow item type guidelines leads to better learning. It starts with a solid foundation in selected-response items.