TH-F-201-02: The Solution: The Science Behind Writing Good Questions



Multiple choice questions are a tool medical physicists encounter throughout their careers. They are a commonly used method of assessment during our early didactic training (graduate school, residency and board certification). They are used throughout our MOC process both in SAMs and online CE. And they are used for the MOC exam every 10 years. While we have significant training in answering these multiple choice questions, we rarely receive training in how to construct effective multiple choice questions. This is important too, as it is medical physicists who are creating the exams at academic institutions, for the AAPM SAMs and online CE as well as for the ABR exams (both initial and MOC). While there are rigorous scientific methods for evaluating the quality of questions in an exam that has been taken, creating good questions (stem) and multiple choice answers (distractors) requires skill and practice. This talk will cover some of the do's and don’ts for creating good multiple choice questions.

Item analysis of answers to multiple choice questions can reveal a great deal about the quality of the questions. Questions can be measured in terms of their difficulty and ability to discriminate between examinees. The distractors themselves can be evaluated for their ability to discriminate as well. And finally the overall test can be evaluated for reliability. We will discuss some of the specifics of item analysis as well as provide guidelines for constructing good tests items.

Learning Objectives:

  • 1.Understand rules for writing a good stem
  • 2.Understand rules for writing good distractors