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Principles for writing good questions

There follows some advice on best practice for constructing some common question types.

Suggestions for writing good stems

  • Present a single, definite statement to be completed or answered by one of the several given choices.
  • Avoid unnecessary and irrelevant material.
  • Use clear, straightforward language in the stem of the item. Questions that are constructed using complex wording may become a test of reading comprehension rather than an assessment of whether the student knows the subject matter.
  • Use negatives sparingly. If negatives must be used, capitalise, underscore embolden or otherwise highlight.
  • Put as much of the question in the stem as possible, rather than duplicating material in each of the options. (Gronlund 1988)