Types of Multiple Choice Questions

by Melissa McDonald

Multiple choice exams are used to test your knowledge of the course material and your problem-solving ability. A multiple choice question consists of the question, called the stem, and several answer choices. Common types of questions are true/false, odd one out, negative, best answer, and multiple and combined answer questions.

True or False

The "true or false" question is comprised of a statement, which is the question or stem, and two answer choices -- true or false. It is used to measure your ability to recognize the correctness of the statements and to test critical thinking. In this question, the answer is "true" only if the statement is completely true. The stem usually contains keywords such as "always" and "never." For example: "Lightning is always followed by thunder. (A) True (B) False"

Odd One Out

The “odd one out” question lists several answers in a particular pattern and asks you to choose the answer that does not fit or match the other answers. This type of question is used to test the ability to think about patterns and relationships between ideas. For example: "Which one of the following does not fit? (A) banana (B) apple (C) broccoli (D) orange"

Negative Questions

Another question you may see is the "negative" question. Careful reading is important because this question examines whether you are reading the questions and answers carefully. The "negative" question specifically asks you to choose the answer that is not correct. For example: "Which of the following statements about the moon is NOT true? (A) The moon is inhabited. (B) The moon orbits the Earth. (C) The moon is full of craters."

Best Answer

The "best answer" question is a difficult one to answer because more than one answer might seem true, but the correct answer is the one that is most true. Such questions are used when an exact answer is less likely, and they test critical thinking skills. Keywords in the question, like "best" and "most likely," indicate that you must choose the best answer out of the list of seemingly correct responses. For example: "Which of the following is the best way to eat healthy?"

Multiple Answer and Combined Response

Two types list two or more possible answer choices. Both test critical thinking skills and ask the test taker to recall several ideas at once. In the "multiple answer" type, the choices may include two or more correct answers, and you need to choose all of the correct answers. For example, if the correct answers are A and B, then you choose both A and B. The other type is the "combined response" question. Again, the answers include two or more correct choices, but only one choice is the correct answer -- the one that lists all the choices. For example: "Which of the following is classified as a fruit? (A) apple (B) orange (C) tomato (D) both A and B (E) A, B and C"

About the Author

Melissa McDonald has been writing about education since 2006. Her work has appeared in “AdjunctNation,” “JCW” and “Honor Cord” e-zine. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and currently works in higher education as a writing consultant. Beyond her work as educator and writer, McDonald volunteers as a judge in both local and national writing competitions for high school and college students.

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