Are Your Multiple-Choice Questions Causing Problems?

Enroll in Patti Shank's Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions course!

Poorly written multiple-choice questions cause problems.  And research finds that many (MANY!) multiple-choice questions are poorly written and invalid for their intended use.

Poorly written and invalid assessments do not provide accurate information about the effectiveness of the instruction. Invalid assessments can create morale and legal problems. If you use multiple-choice assessment results to make decisions--such as who can proceed--you open your organization to legal risk when questions are poorly written.

The bottom line is that everyone who builds multiple-choice assessments must be able to write good multiple-choice questions!

Assessment writing is a critical skill but is rarely taught to learning practitioners and others who design adult instruction. Let's fix this!

Consider this question:

Well-written multiple-choice questions must: (Select the best answer)

a.   Ask participants to recall content from the course.
b.   Ask participants to analyze the meaning of unfamiliar words.
c.   Assess whether participants met the learning objectives.
d.   Assess whether participants listened to all of the videos.

If you're not sure of the answer, you’re not alone. Research shows that multiple-choice questions are difficult to write well. Difficult, that is, until you know and have practiced the evidence-based tactics that make them clear and valid for their intended purpose.  

Too many multiple-choice questions are unclear, frustrating people who try to answer them and making results less valid. Too many multiple-choice questions measure only recall of course content, which is not usually what we need to measure. We must write questions so they effectively measure achievement of the learning objectives. (Therefore, the answer to the multiple-choice question above is c.)

Writing well-written, valid multiple-choice questions that measure achievement of the learning objectives is a critical skill for people who design instruction. And yet research shows that most multiple-choice questions are poorly written. This is a big problem because poorly written learning objectives provide bad information (garbage in garbage out) and can lead to legal problems.
What's included?

The Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions course is equivalent to a 1-day classroom workshop, but we spread it out over 10 days to give you more time to process and practice. And it’s online, so no travel or travel expenses!

The learning objectives for this course are:
--  Write learning objectives correctly.
--  Analyze multiple-choice questions to identify flaws that should be fixed.      
--Write appropriate multiple-choice items that measure achievement of well-written learning objectives.

The course includes:
--  2 live online sessions with Patti and your classmates
--  Ongoing asynchronous discussions to ask and discuss questions 
--  Patti’s multiple-choice writing manual (only available through her courses)
-- Detailed learning objective and multiple-choice question exercises
--  A master job aid to help you write more effective multiple-choice questions
-- An action words job aid to help you write the right learning objectives
-- Two quizzes to check your understanding and help you process and remember critical insights  

Who is the course intended for?

We designed the Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions course specifically for workplace-learning professionals and others who need to write valid job-related assessments. This includes instructional designers, trainers, instructors, content experts, technical writers, and others. In this course, we use actionable research tactics for writing valid multiple-choice questions that measure learning objectives. The course is best suited for people who have some experience designing instruction and writing multiple-choice questions.
Take the quiz  to see what you know and don't know about multiple-choice questions.

When is the next course?

The next course starts Wednesday, May 6 and ends Friday, May 15. Course materials will be open starting Monday, May 4 in case you want a bit of extra time.
Scheduled live session dates and time:

Friday, May 8
8 AM US Pacific Daylight Time, 11 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 4 PM British Summer Time. The session is 90 minutes, including a break.

Wednesday, May 13
8 AM US Pacific Daylight Time, 11 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 4 PM British Summer Time. The session is 90 minutes, including a break.

Need a different date/time?

Patti is willing to add live session times that work for your group of five or more. Contact us: to discuss arrangements.
How much time should I set aside?

We expect the course to take about 10-12 hours, including:
  -- Reading the manual
  -- Asking questions in the discussion area
  -- Attending the live sessions
  -- Practicing

To gain the maximum benefit, take the course when you can dedicate the time and effort. Except for the live sessions, you can participate in the course activities at the times that work best for you.
What's my investment?

The cost for the class is US $349.

We currently accept credit cards and PayPal for payment.

Once you register, we are holding your spot. As a result, we are unable to offer refunds. However, you can substitute another person in your organization in your place before the course starts.

Can I share the materials and live sessions with my team/friends/pets?

Course materials are copyrighted and each enrollment permits only the person enrolling to access the course, materials, and activities.

Can you deliver a private class just for my team?

We can and we do! Contact us: We offer discounts for three or more people from the same organization (paid at the same time) attending the same public class, or for 10 or more people enrolling in a private class for their organization.

Questions? Ask!

Multiple-choice questions are everywhere in learning, but they can be fiendishly difficult to write well. Nobody is doing a better job than Patti of distilling out research-based principles for writing well, and turning them into practical, actionable guidelines. Highly recommended.

Julie Dirksen, Author, Design for How People Learn

I joined Patti’s course this July and loved it! Her content matches her facilitation; both excellent. I would totally recommend it.

Taruna Goel, Learning & Performance Specialist, Vancouver, BC, Canada

This training gave me insight into the many factors involved in creating effective multiple-choice questions. It has prepared me to better advise instructors on whether multiple-choice questions are the best tool, and how they can be crafted to generate reliable, valid data.

Anna Landes Benz, Program and Faculty Developer, private university, MN, USA

The weekly live sessions opened my mind and upped my question-writing game. Patti knows her topic and added the wow factor that I was looking for by offering real-time feedback to participants.

Comments from other participants helped me see different perspectives. I strongly recommend this course for anybody who must create multiple-choice question learning assessments.

Peter Sage, Trainer, iLAB, South Africa

Patti’s course on writing assessments has been invaluable in helping me write effective, credible assessments for my online learning courses and assessments. There is a wealth of well-researched detail about what exactly goes into writing an effective multiple-choice question and how these questions relate to the bigger picture of effective learning. I strongly recommend this course to anyone who wants to make their learning more effective as well as anyone who needs to write effective assessments.

Nick Tchan, Instructional designer, NSW Health, Australia

Patti Shank

Patti Shank, PhD is a learning expert, researcher, author, and writer who is listed as one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in eLearning internationally. She is the author of Write and Organize for Deeper Learning, Practice and Feedback for Deeper Learning, and Manage Memory for Deeper Learning. These books offer practical tactics for improving outcomes based on training and other research. You can find Patti's articles on eLearning Industry and elsewhere. Website:

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