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On Methodologies of Composing Test Questions

Composing a Multiple-Choice Test is a difficult task, as the students’ results greatly depend on the understandability of the test questions. The same applies towards all examination questions, whether in the form of a test or not. Thus, several methods have been worked out for composing the questions, and there also exist several guidance materials for such composition. Such methodology could very generally be introduced as follows:

First – Figuring out what exactly is tested – What is the purpose, a concrete test aims at?

Second – Checking – Am I clear enough with my questions?

Third – Awareness of an average student’s psychology (who usually has taken tests before or may have read about the relevant methodologies).

Consequently, the composer should also have read at least the basic guidelines of composing tests.

The Faculty of Education of the University of Tartu offers inter alia such pedagogical courses that touch upon the theory of composing test questions. Such courses usually talk about strategic vs. deep learning. Although strategic learning is not considered the right method, the students have to know what is required from them in order to pass an exam.



Useful could also be a link to the SSRN paper No. 09/21 (2 April 2009) by Janet W. Fisher “Multiple-Choice: Choosing the Best Options for More Effective and Less Frustrating Law School Testing”, where is concluded: “Multiple-choice items that do not adhere to basic multiple-choice item-writing guidelines actually might cause students to fail exams they otherwise would have passed“ (p. 124). The article also criticizes the law schools tests for not reliably measuring the achievement of all the learning objectives of a concrete course (p. 132). A link to the article:


I have recently discovered a book with questions on EU law, written by Nigel Foster, “Q & A EU Law 2009 and 2010” (Oxford University Press, 2009) including (not multiple-choice) questions on EU law, commentaries, answer plans and suggested answers. The book is comprehensive, although one could have read with great interest more about the underlying methodology of this book.

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