Multiple choice test items typically consist of the key and 3-4 distractors. However, research has supported the efficacy of using fewer alternatives. Haladyna and Downing (1993) found that it is difficult to write test items with more than one plausible distractor, resulting in items with a correct answer and one alternative, also known as the alternate choice (AC) format. We constructed two 32-item tests; one with four alternatives (MC4) and one with two (AC), using an inter-judge agreement approach to eliminate distractors. Tests were administered to 138 personnel working for a U.S. Government agency. Testing time was significantly less and scores were higher for the AC test. However, score differences disappeared when both forms were corrected for guessing. There were no significant differences in test difficulty (mean p-values). The corrected KR-20 reliabilities for both forms, after applying the Spearman-Brown formula, were AC = .816 and MC4 = .893. We discuss the results with respect to the resources spent writing and reviewing test items, and in more broadly sampling a content domain using the AC format due to reduced testing times.
Bateson, Allan and Dardick, William R.
"A Comparison of the Two-Option Versus the Four-Option Multiple-Choice Item: A Case for Fewer Distractors,"
Personnel Assessment and Decisions: Vol. 6
, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarworks.bgsu.edu/pad/vol6/iss3/5