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Suggestions for writing good distracters

  • For single response MCQs, ensure that there is only one correct response.
  • Use only plausible and attractive alternatives as distracters.
  • Avoid giving clues to the correct answer.
  • If possible, avoid the choices 'All of the above' and 'None of the above'. If you do include them, make sure that they appear as correct answers some of the time.
  • Distracters based on common student errors or misconceptions are very effective.
  • Correct statements that do not answer the question are often strong distracters.
  • Avoid using 'always' and 'never' in the stem as test-wise students are likely to rule such universal statements out of consideration.
  • Do not create distracters that are so close to the correct answer that they may confuse students who really know the answer to the question. "Distracters should differ from the key in a substantial way, not just in some minor nuance of phrasing or emphasis." (Isaacs 1994)
  • Provide a sufficient number of distracters.