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Article: An assessment of functioning and non-functioning distractors in multiple-choice questions: A descriptive analysis

TitleAn assessment of functioning and non-functioning distractors in multiple-choice questions: A descriptive analysis
Authors
KeywordsDescriptive research
Distractibility
Faculty practice
Hong kong
Issue Date2009
PublisherBioMed Central Ltd. The Journal's web site is located at http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmededuc/
Citation
Bmc Medical Education, 2009, v. 9 n. 1 How to Cite?
AbstractBackground. Four- or five-option multiple choice questions (MCQs) are the standard in health-science disciplines, both on certification-level examinations and on in-house developed tests. Previous research has shown, however, that few MCQs have three or four functioning distractors. The purpose of this study was to investigate non-functioning distractors in teacher-developed tests in one nursing program in an English-language university in Hong Kong. Methods. Using item-analysis data, we assessed the proportion of non-functioning distractors on a sample of seven test papers administered to undergraduate nursing students. A total of 514 items were reviewed, including 2056 options (1542 distractors and 514 correct responses). Non-functioning options were defined as ones that were chosen by fewer than 5% of examinees and those with a positive option discrimination statistic. Results. The proportion of items containing 0, 1, 2, and 3 functioning distractors was 12.3%, 34.8%, 39.1%, and 13.8% respectively. Overall, items contained an average of 1.54 (SD = 0.88) functioning distractors. Only 52.2% (n = 805) of all distractors were functioning effectively and 10.2% (n = 158) had a choice frequency of 0. Items with more functioning distractors were more difficult and more discriminating. Conclusion. The low frequency of items with three functioning distractors in the four-option items in this study suggests that teachers have difficulty developing plausible distractors for most MCQs. Test items should consist of as many options as is feasible given the item content and the number of plausible distractors; in most cases this would be three. Item analysis results can be used to identify and remove non-functioning distractors from MCQs that have been used in previous tests. © 2009 Tarrant et al.
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/88189
ISSN
2015 Impact Factor: 1.312
2015 SCImago Journal Rankings: 0.698
PubMed Central ID
ISI Accession Number ID
Funding AgencyGrant Number
University of Hong Kong
Leung Kau Kui/Run Run Shaw Research
Teaching Endowment Fund
Funding Information:

Funding for this study was provided by University of Hong Kong, Leung Kau Kui/Run Run Shaw Research and Teaching Endowment Fund. The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Ms. Cher Lau and Ms. Winnie Lo in retrieving the MCQs and item analysis data for this analysis.

References

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorTarrant, Men_HK
dc.contributor.authorWare, Jen_HK
dc.contributor.authorMohammed, AMen_HK
dc.date.accessioned2010-09-06T09:40:04Z-
dc.date.available2010-09-06T09:40:04Z-
dc.date.issued2009en_HK
dc.identifier.citationBmc Medical Education, 2009, v. 9 n. 1en_HK
dc.identifier.issn1472-6920en_HK
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/88189-
dc.description.abstractBackground. Four- or five-option multiple choice questions (MCQs) are the standard in health-science disciplines, both on certification-level examinations and on in-house developed tests. Previous research has shown, however, that few MCQs have three or four functioning distractors. The purpose of this study was to investigate non-functioning distractors in teacher-developed tests in one nursing program in an English-language university in Hong Kong. Methods. Using item-analysis data, we assessed the proportion of non-functioning distractors on a sample of seven test papers administered to undergraduate nursing students. A total of 514 items were reviewed, including 2056 options (1542 distractors and 514 correct responses). Non-functioning options were defined as ones that were chosen by fewer than 5% of examinees and those with a positive option discrimination statistic. Results. The proportion of items containing 0, 1, 2, and 3 functioning distractors was 12.3%, 34.8%, 39.1%, and 13.8% respectively. Overall, items contained an average of 1.54 (SD = 0.88) functioning distractors. Only 52.2% (n = 805) of all distractors were functioning effectively and 10.2% (n = 158) had a choice frequency of 0. Items with more functioning distractors were more difficult and more discriminating. Conclusion. The low frequency of items with three functioning distractors in the four-option items in this study suggests that teachers have difficulty developing plausible distractors for most MCQs. Test items should consist of as many options as is feasible given the item content and the number of plausible distractors; in most cases this would be three. Item analysis results can be used to identify and remove non-functioning distractors from MCQs that have been used in previous tests. © 2009 Tarrant et al.en_HK
dc.languageengen_HK
dc.publisherBioMed Central Ltd. The Journal's web site is located at http://www.biomedcentral.com/bmcmededuc/en_HK
dc.relation.ispartofBMC Medical Educationen_HK
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsB M C Medical Education. Copyright © BioMed Central Ltd.en_HK
dc.subjectDescriptive research-
dc.subjectDistractibility-
dc.subjectFaculty practice-
dc.subjectHong kong-
dc.subject.meshAnalysis of Variance-
dc.subject.meshEducation, Nursing-
dc.subject.meshEducational Measurement-
dc.subject.meshHealth Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice-
dc.subject.meshTeaching - methods-
dc.titleAn assessment of functioning and non-functioning distractors in multiple-choice questions: A descriptive analysisen_HK
dc.typeArticleen_HK
dc.identifier.openurlhttp://library.hku.hk:4550/resserv?sid=HKU:IR&issn=1472-6920&volume=9, article 40&spage=1&epage=8&date=2009&atitle=An+assessment+of+functioning+and+non-functioning+distractors+in+multiple-choice+questions:+a+descriptive+analysisen_HK
dc.identifier.emailTarrant, M: tarrantm@hkucc.hku.hken_HK
dc.identifier.authorityTarrant, M=rp00461en_HK
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.1186/1472-6920-9-40en_HK
dc.identifier.pmid19580681-
dc.identifier.pmcidPMC2713226-
dc.identifier.scopuseid_2-s2.0-68149120384en_HK
dc.identifier.hkuros163509en_HK
dc.relation.referenceshttp://www.scopus.com/mlt/select.url?eid=2-s2.0-68149120384&selection=ref&src=s&origin=recordpageen_HK
dc.identifier.volume9en_HK
dc.identifier.issue1en_HK
dc.identifier.spage1-
dc.identifier.epage8-
dc.identifier.isiWOS:000284710200001-
dc.publisher.placeUnited Kingdomen_HK
dc.identifier.scopusauthoridTarrant, M=7004340118en_HK
dc.identifier.scopusauthoridWare, J=35308222100en_HK
dc.identifier.scopusauthoridMohammed, AM=35513684600en_HK
dc.identifier.citeulike5110621-

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