Developing and Validating Multiple-Choice Test Items

Developing and Validating Multiple-Choice Test Items

Developing and Validating Multiple-Choice Test Items

Developing and Validating Multiple-Choice Test Items


This book is intended for anyone who is seriously interested in designing and validating multiple-choice test items that measure understanding and the application of knowledge and skills to complex situations, such as critical thinking and problem solving. The most comprehensive and authoritative book in its field, this edition has been extensively revised to include:

• more information about writing items that match content standards;

• more information about creating item pools and item banking;

• a new set of item-writing rules (with examples) in chapter 5, as well as guidelines for other multiple-choice formats;

• hundreds of examples including an expanded chapter 4 devoted to exemplary item formats and a new chapter 6 containing exemplary items (with author annotations);

• a chapter on item generation (chapter 7) featuring item modeling and other procedures that speed up item development; and

• a more extensive set of references to past and current work in the area of multiple-choice item writing and validation.

This book will be of interest to anyone who develops test items for large-scale assessments, as well as teachers and graduate students who desire the most comprehensive and authoritative information on the design and validation of multiple-choice test items.


This third edition provides a comprehensive treatment of the development of multiple-choice (MC) test items and the study of item responses for the improvement or continued use of these items. This third edition contains some significant revisions that I hope will be an improvement over the previous two editions.


Revising a book for the second time requires some motivation. Four factors fueled this effort.

First, readers continue to show an interest in a comprehensive treatment of MC item development and item response validation. These readers surface in my life in countless ways. Some readers point out an error, share an idea or a new MC format, ask a question, or simply offer support to the effort to improve test items.

Second, a scientific basis for test item writing has been slow to develop (Cronbach, 1970; Haladyna & Downing, 1989a, 1989b; Haladyna, Downing, & Rodriguez, 2002; Nitko, 1985; Roid & Haladyna, 1982). These critics have pointed out the paucity of research on item development. This book responds to that criticism.

The third factor is the short yet rich history of efforts to improve MC item writing. This history dates back to the early 20th century when MC was introduced. Along the way, many testing specialists and educators have contributed . . .

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