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Fill in the blanks


Leave only important terms blank.

Keep items brief.
Limit the number of blanks per statement to one, at the most two for older students.
Limit the response called for to single words or very brief phrases.
Try to put the blanks near the end of the statement (or better yet, see 9 and 4 below).
Try to ensure that only one term fits each blank.
Indicate the units if the answer called for involves a numerical measure.
Give students credit for unanticipated yet correct responses.
Number the blanks and provide lines down the right-hand side of the page, all of the same
length, for students to write their answers.

1. Lift statements directly from the book.
2. Use "a" or "an" before a blank; make it "a/an" if needed to make it grammatical.
3. Count a misspelled or non-grammatical answer entirely wrong. Let students know in advance
that spelling and grammar count.
4. Use blanks that are all of the same length.

1. Use a single point that determines the truth of the statement. An example violation: The cm is
larger than the mm and the mm is larger than the dm.
2. Take care with grammar and spelling.
3. Use a single clause, simply and directly stated; if two clauses are used, the main clause should
be true and the subordinate cla`````use true or false. An example violation: Lilies are considered
annuals because their bulbs live from year to year.
4. Have approximately half of the statements true and half false. It is easier to start with all true
statements, then go back and change some to false statements.
5. Use a random pattern in the sequence of answers, e.g., ttfft is okay, tftft is not.

1. Use tricky questions.
2. Use unnecessary words and complicated content.
3. Use statements directly from the text. Rephrase them so students must at least have
comprehended the material as opposed to recognizing it.
4. Avoid negatives; this means not just words like not or none, but negative prefixes and suffixes
as well. Double negatives are never grammatical.
5. Avoid specific determiners. Statements with words such as generally, may, most, often, should,
and usually are generally true. Statements with words such as all, alone, only, no, none, never,
and always are generally false.

Matching Type

1. Make certain that the relationship between the stems and the responses is the same throughout
the question. For example, all of the items might be things OR events, but a combination of
things and events is inappropriate. (Warning: this is more difficult than it appears!)
2. State the specific relationship between the stems and responses in the directions to the question.
Check that it fits each stem and its response. If it doesn't, rework the question.
3. Put the stems ("question") column on the left and number them.
4. Put the blanks for students to record their answers next to the stems (or on an answer sheet).
5. Put the responses (answers) column on the right and letter them (capital letters).
6. Order the responses in some logical fashion, e.g., alphabetically, sequentially.
7. Make the stems longer than the responses.
8. Use between five and ten stems.
9. Provide more responses than needed (about 40-50% more than stimuli).

1. Split a matching question between pages.
2. Fail to check that directions state a relationship and that it is correct across the entire question.
3. Provide more than one correct response for a single stem, unless you've been very clear with the
directions and have taught students to do this kind of question in advance.
4. Change the grammar across stems and responses, e.g., between plural and singular.
Multiple Choice

1. Use the same number of distractors (wrong answers) for every question.
2. Use plausible distractors that are related to the stem and are similar in character; tricky, cute,
and 'throw-away' ones are anathema.
3. Have all distractors (and the correct answer) about the same length.
4. Use correct grammar; if the stem is an incomplete sentence, each distractor should be
grammatically consistent with it and complete the sentence.
5. Put all of the distractors in a single column, not side by side or in two columns.
6. Use reasonable vocabulary and avoid wordiness and ambiguity.
7. Vary the position of the correct answer (the tendency is to make it B or C).
8. Examine questions carefully for subtle clues in word choice or phrasing.

1. Use specific determiners in distractors such as all, none, only, and alone because they usually
indicate an incorrect answer. Likewise, avoid generally, often, usually, most, and may because
they often indicate the correct answer.
2. Avoid negatives, including less obvious ones, such as without, because they can confuse or be
missed by students; highlight the negative word if you find you must use one.
3. Provide clues in the stem, such as a or an at the end; put these articles with the distractors.

4. Avoid using "all of the above" and "none of the above." If you do use them, make them as
frequently the incorrect answers as they are the correct answers.