How to beat a multiple choice test

In General L&D by JD DillonLeave a Comment

I have a dare for all workplace learning professionals …

I DARE YOU to share this post with employees who regularly complete your multiple choice assessments.

How to beat your next multiple choice test!

  1. Don’t bother reading the questions.
    There’s really no reason to read the question. You can just read the answer options and pick the only one that actually sounds like it could be correct.
  2. Select the longest answer option.
    The correct answer is usually the longest option because they forced all of the corporate-sounding language into the response to get it approved by the subject matter experts.
  3. Select all/none of the above when available.
    There’s no reason to offer all/none of the above as an option unless it’s the correct answer.
  4. Just take it again.
    It doesn’t really matter if you get the question right the first time. You’re almost always allowed at least 2 attempts at the EXACT SAME test. Just make note of what you got wrong the first time and make different selections until you get the passing score.

No, these tips aren’t 100% foolproof. But my 20+ years of experience tell me they’ll make your next multiple choice assessment easier to pass.

If you’re concerned this information may help employees “cheat” their way through the test, I have 2 responses:

  1. They’re already doing these things.
  2. You have an assessment design problem.

A good assessment is VERY difficult to write. Unfortunately, we often wait until the end of the project to build the assessment. Therefore, we have limited time to get it done and end up churning out a generic set of questions that cleanly divides by 5. We fall into the same question design traps over and over again. This transforms the assessment from a useful learning exercise into just another hoop the employee needs to jump through so they can get back to work.

To stay mathematically consistent, here are 5 tips to make your assessments unbeatable (meaning they’ll actually help people learn).

  1. Write the assessment first.
    Your content should be working towards a measurable knowledge/behavior outcome. Therefore, you should write the assessment first. Then, design your content to help the employee demonstrate the knowledge/behavior needed to pass that assessment.
  2. Kill true/false.
    True/false is a 50/50 guessing game, not a realistic application of knowledge in context. They also tend to be trick questions anyway. Just don’t use them.
  3. Lose all/none of the above.
    What’s the point of all/none of the above? More often than not, it’s a lazy way to stuff a pile of different questions into one so you can stay under the mysterious set limit (multiple of 5). The correct answer is almost always all/none of the above. And, if that’s not the correct choice, it’s more of a trick than a realistic option. Ax it.
  4. Vary the questions.
    Your employees are passing around the answers to the test because they know they’ll all get the same questions whenever they take it. Your assessments should vary in terms of the questions used as well as the sequence of questions and options. Sure, this can still be gamed, but it makes it a lot more difficult. Plus, real-world problems don’t show up in a specific order.
  5. Use questions for learning.
    Questions are limited to assessment. Questions are an extremely effective tool for learning, as they trigger retrieval practice processes and drive long-term retention. This is why flash cards are so nifty. Rather than making your employees fear questions because they’re always used to test (pass/fail), use questions to challenge knowledge and help people learn. After all, which questions do you remember from school: the ones you got right or the ones you got wrong?

How are you using multiple choice questions? Do you write questions to test knowledge or to help people learn? What’s the worst multiple choice fail you’ve ever seen?

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