Ideas for using multiple choice questions for more than testing

Ideas for using MCQ for more than testing

In my post on how to write effective multiple choice questions I spoke a bit about their use for more than just knowledge assessment. I discussed how they can be used to simulate the decision making a learner has to do in the workplace. But there are other innovative ways that multiple choice questions can be used to make learning more effective and engaging.   

The core interaction in a multiple choice question is that the learner is required to make a choice, and there are lots of ways that these choices can be phrased beyond just testing knowledge.  

Here are a few ideas.

planning tools

Planning tools

Multiple choices questions can be used to add actions to a learner's post-course action plan. These actions might be direct changes that an employee plans to make at work, or could concern areas that need further investigation.


self assessment

Self-assessment tools

In past webinars we have explored the question of how to help employees become self-directed learners. One of the constant themes that comes up is the difficulty in providing employees with self-assessment tools so they can diagnose their strengths and weakness. In most elearning development systems, multiple choice questions can be used to build these types of powerful self-assessment tools.  


Sparking interest

Sparking interest

One of the most ineffective instructional design approaches is to show some information and then test the learner’s retention of that information. A better approach is to use the interactive possibilities of multiple choice questions to actively explore and present information. SMEs’ reaction to this approach is often that learners cannot do the activities until they ‘know the content’, which poses a challenging problem. There are a couple of approaches we can take in this situation:

  • Have a discussion with the SME about adult learning principles.

  • Bring up some examples of just how ineffective knowledge-focused learning has directly led to workplace errors.

  • Show some examples of what problem-focused learning looks like.   

We often begin modules with a surprising statistic or piece of knowledge presented as a question. Some learners might know the answer, some might guess it. If a learner gets it wrong the feedback provides them with the correct answer.


giving advice2

Giving advice

As an instructional designer, if you have done the analysis stage well, your course should be framed around the decisions that the learner needs to make in their workplace, not just around what they need to know. These can then be woven into what I call ‘first-person decisions’, where the learner is presented with a scenario and then asked what they would do in this situation. Another approach is a third-person perspective where the learner is asked to give advice about the scenario. This approach of seeking advice acknowledges the learner’s expertise and takes away some of the pressure that can come with first-person questions.

These are just a few ideas about how multiple choice question go beyond testing knowledge. The key to using them effectively is to think about them as a type of interaction.  


Graphics with the help of Freepik