Confession: I am a recovering test developer. But those two years I spent as the lead consultant on a large-scale reading test taught me a lot about the assessment/evaluation process. And my biggest epiphany: the power of the multiple choice question! I came to recognize that a well-constructed multiple choice prompt can actually generate higher level thinking than some extended response questions. Often readers – especially reluctant readers – simply write down the first thought that comes to their minds. But good distractors (the answer choices in a multiple choice question) force readers to actually think about the question and the alternatives.
Of course, that assumes that the reader isn’t just guessing. That’s why it’s a good idea, for classroom assessments, that we require them to justify their choices. The 3 Es – Evidence, Examples and Elaboration – turn a random guess into a thoughtful response. Read more about good questions and good answers on the HIP Teacher Page.