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Crowd-Sourcing Multiple Choice GCSE Computing Questions

A plea to teachers of Computing GCSE, please join an effort to write a bank of high quality multiple choice questions to support the teaching of this course.

Why multiple choice questions?

There is an increasing body of research and writing showing that skilfully written multiple choice questions are an effective means of developing retention. They are easy to administer and easy to mark, particularly in an IT rich environment. My experience (and looking at OCR data, most other school’s experience) is that students perform poorly on the written examination part of the GCSE. Their retention and recall of the knowledge needed to succeed in the exam is poor.

Well written multiple choice questions could be used:
– as lesson starters / plenaries etc to revisit learning covered earlier in the course, helping to develop retention
– as hinge questions in the middle of a lesson as part of the AfL process
– as small assessments of units of work
– without the wrong answers, as flashcards for learner’s revision

Further reading

My thoughts on this have been shaped by some excellent writing and research online…
Joe Kirby – How to design multiple-choice questions
Daisy Christodoulou – Research on multiple choice questions
Robert Bjork – Multiple-Choice Tests Exonerated, at Least of Some Charges: Fostering Test-Induced Learning and Avoiding Test-Induced Forgetting
Dylan Wiliam – When is assessment learning orientated
Dylan Wiliam & Caroline Wylie – Diagnostic Questions: Is there value in just one?
David Didau – How effective learning hinges on good questioning


Great! I have set up a Google Form for you to submit your questions and answers. I’ve split the Computing GCSE up into a few high level topic areas to categorise each question. Once you’ve shared some questions I will happily give you access to the spreadsheet behind the form and what will hopefully grow into a large bank of high quality questions. If you have lots that you’ve already prepared and want to send me an email with them in a different format that would be wonderful. I’ll do my best to add them into the rest without you having to copy each one in to the form.

7 Principles for Designing Multiple Choice Options

Quality questions that help develop retention need carefully crafted options for the answers. Please follow these guidelines when constructing your questions and answers.

With his permission, I’ve shamelessly stolen this list from Joe Kirby.

  1. The proximity of options increases the rigour of the question
    For instance, the question is, what year was the battle of Hastings? Options 1065, 1066, 1067, 1068 or 1069 are more rigorous than options 1066, 1166, 1266, 1366 or 1466. Of course, the question itself also determines the rigour: ‘80 is what percentage of 200?’ is much easier than ‘79 is what percentage of 316?’
  2. The number of incorrect options increases rigour
    Three options gives pupils a 33% chance of guessing the correct answer; five options reduces the chances of guessing to 20%; always create five rather than three or four options for multiple choice questions. A ‘don’t know’ option prevents pupils from blindly guessing, allowing them to flag up questions they’re unsure about rather than getting lucky with a correct guess.
    With this in mind the form will accept questions of the form:

– 1 correct answer from a total of 4
– 1 correct answer from a total of 5
– 2 correct answers from a total of 5
– 2 correct answers from a total of 6
The further down that list the less chance someone can guess the answer correctly.
3. Incorrect options should be plausible but unambiguously wrong
If options are too implausible, this reduces rigour as pupils can too quickly dismiss them. For instance, in the question: what do Charles Dickens and Oliver Twist have in common, an implausible option would be that they were both bank robbers. However, if answers are too ambiguously similar, this creates problems. For instance, in the question, ‘What happens in the plot of Oliver Twist?’, these options are too ambiguous:
a) A young boy runs away to London
b) An orphan falls in with a street gang of street urchins
c) A poor orphan is adopted by a wealthy gentleman
d) A criminal murders a young woman and is pursued by a mob
e) A gang of pickpockets abduct a young boy
4. Incorrect options should be frequent misconceptions where possible
For example, if you know pupils often confuse how autobiographical ‘Oliver Twist’ is, create options as common confusions. These distractors flag up what pupils are thinking if they select an incorrect option:
a) Both were born in a workhouse
b) Both were separated from their parents and family
c) Both were put in prison for debt
d) Both had families who were put in prison for debt
e) Both were orphans
5. Multiple correct options make a question more rigorous.
Not stating how many correct options there are makes pupils think harder. For example:
Which characteristics of “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” can be seen as Romantic?
a) It celebrates the supernatural.
b) It is written in iambic pentameter.
c) It emphasises emotion over reason.
d) It deals with the lives of common people.
e) It aspires to nature and the sublime.
6. The occasional negative question encourages kids to read the questions more carefully.
Once they get a question like ‘Which of these is NOT a cause of World War 1?‘ wrong, and realise why, they’ll work out they need to read questions again to double-check on what it is they’re asking.
7. Stretch questions can be created with comparisons or connections between topics.
What was common to both the USA and Germany during the Great Depression?
a)     Jewish immigration increased
b)     Membership of Ku Klux Klan increased
c)     Public works projects were implemented
d)     Government social programs were reduced

Still here? Then let us begin!

The form is available here http://bit.ly/multicompq. Don’t rush, fashion some great questions as you go throughout this year. Together we can make a powerful learning resource. And hopefully many hands will make light work of the task!

If you have a big list of questions to submit to the cause then please email them to me at dstucke [at] stretfordhigh.com and I will endeavour to add them to the master list. If you would like access to the bank of questions then leave me a comment here, email me on the address above or send me a tweet. I’ll collate them into a shareable format. Probably just a csv or txt file to start with that can then be used to import into your response system of choice be that Moodle quizzes, Socrative or ExitTicket questions, whatever you choose.

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