When is a Question a Good Question?


During a reinforcement course, we like to gather as much data as possible. This provides organizations with enough information to analyze their training, provide feedback to participants, and guide overall success.

This valuable data starts by constructing good questions.

In this article, I’d like to take a closer look at the “perfect” question. As a leader, you're ultimately responsible for proper analysis that drives continuous improvement. You can read a variety of books regarding surveys and questions, but in this article I want to draw your attention to multiple-choice questions.

Multiple-choice questions are best suited for measuring the knowledge level in an organization. The participant’s answer is either right or wrong, allowing you to make better decisions when analyzing your training reinforcement data.

There are five different types of multiple-choice questions:

1. Standard Questions

The standard type of closed question is where the number of answers can vary from three to six. The answers are listed in alphabetical order if text or statements, and ordered from lowest to highest if numbers.

2. Statement Questions

Then we have a question with two statements. This question type is a type of proposition question. It is a difficult type of question, both to construct and to respond to. You present the participant with 2 statements and the participant then has to select an answer where they connect the statements.

An example statement question:

  • Statement 1: There is a link between salt intake and the level of blood pressure.
  • Statement 2: People with high blood pressure are advised to eat lots of salty peanuts

QUESTION: What applies to these statements?

A: 1 and 2 are correct
B: Only 1 is correct
C: Only 2 is correct
D: 1 and 2 are not correct

In this type of question, it is very important that you create a relationship between statements 1 and 2.

3. Rearrangement Questions

The third question type is the rearrangement question. Material is constructed according to certain principles of order. The participant in the reinforcement course must demonstrate that they can handle these relevant planning principles adequately.

An example of a rearrangement question:

Below are six random historical events. Four of them are related.

  1. The attack on Pearl Harbor
  2. The occupation of the Ruhr Area
  3. The reparations
  4. The Battle of Stalingrad
  5. The Locarno Treaty
  6. The Treaty of Versailles

QUESTION: Which four events belong together and are in chronological order?

A. 1-2-5-3
B. 1-4-5-6
C. 2-1-4-5
D. 2-1-5-3

This type of question can only be used when there is data that can be put in chronological order.

4. Combination Questions

Combination questions are a demand type of question, which is similar to the rearrangement question. In this case, the data in one row should be combined with those in the other row.

An example combination question:

Below are the names of some animals

A. Bear
B. Donkey
C. Dog
D. Cat
E. Lion
F. Pig

QUESTION: Complete the following sentences with one of the animals. (An animal can occur more than once.)

  1. As sick as a…
  2. As strong as a…
  3. As faithful as a…
  4. As dumb as a…

5. True or False Questions

Another question type is true or false. This question type differs from the standard closed question: a statement or claim is made and the answer is either true or false.

Take caution when using true or false. Research shows that this type of question may not provide reliable data for two reasons:

  1. It is difficult to construct an answer that all participants in a reinforcement course will accept as completely true.
  2. Presenting a false statement is an unusual action in reinforcement, where training is being associated in general with "transferring facts and probabilities.

When constructing this type of question, it’s important to understand that a closed type of question is a question type, in which the correct answer is being given in addition to a number of incorrect responses.

After reading the introduction and question the participant has two possibilities:

  • The participant will formulate the correct answer for themselves by looking at the alternatives and then answering correctly.
  • The participant will indicate the correct answer based on the given alternatives.

It is preferable to formulate the question positively. Always show any negatively formulated question clearly by capitalizing, italics or underlining, or another way to visually cue the participant. This way it is obvious that the question is formulated negatively. Determining the correct answer is more difficult if the question is formulated negatively.

6 tips for creating great multiple-choice questions:

  • When formulating alternatives, start by writing down the good/best answers first.
  • Use learning difficulties and common errors made by participants as distractors.
  • Use only those distractors you expect that participants will actually choose.
  • Formulate positive questions.
  • Highlight a negatively formulated question by underlining or italicizing the negative element.
  • Formulate direct questions.
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