Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs.

Jim Sturgiss
Aligning practice for better outcomes.
Make a better test: Learn how to write effective MCQs from a professional test designer.
Target Audience
Science teachers K-12
9 reviews

Learning Areas

Teaching Standards

General Description

Why Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)?
MCQs have a greater engagement by students than free response items.
MCQs provide more reliable data than free response items.
MCQs can be designed to pinpoint misconceptions.
MCQs are easily mounted on learning management systems such as Edmodo and moodle.


Science teachers K-12

Available Delivery Formats

Format Description

COVID-19 Event Information

All TTA venues continue to work with advice provided by the NSW Health Department in managing the risks associated with the current COVID-19 situation. While the current risk is low, TTA venues will be taking steps to help provide a safe environment for our courses. There will be increased cleaning and disinfecting of all areas, and venues will be providing ample hand sanitiser pumps. While venues will be taking all the care that they can, we also stress the need for course participants to take responsibility for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of those around them. If you are not feeling well or showing symptoms of COVID-19, please don’t attend this event. Wash your hands regularly. Avoid shaking hands where possible. Practice cough etiquette, coughing into a tissue or your elbow and washing your hands afterwards. Thank you for your understanding.

Blended delivery, products will be shared on forums. Online quizzes support the development of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) excellence.

Teaching Standards
5.1.2 Proficient Level – Assess student learning
6.3.2 Proficient Level – Engage with colleagues and improve practice
Are you in NSW? If so, this is relevant for you

Completing this course will contribute 5 hours of NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Registered PD addressing 5.1.2 & 6.3.2 from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation in NSW.

TTA (Teacher Training Australia) is endorsed to provide the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) Registered Professional Development for teachers accredited at Proficient and Lead Level Teacher.

This course contributes to 6.0 professional development hours.


There are no occurrences of 1. Face to Face in Australia (ACT) at this time.


SOLO taxonomy: differentiation of student responses

30 minutes

Participants will learn how SOLO taxonomy (the Structure Of Learning Outcomes) can be used to differentiate student responses

Why multiple choice?

30 minutes

Presentation and interactive online quizzes -
Anatomy of a multiple choice item
Syllabus validity, distractor analysis and misconceptions
Do’s and Don’ts

Collaborative writing task

2 hours

Working in pairs:
Using the stimulus brought to the session participants construct 8 – 12 test items.
Item will be located in the syllabus and the SOLO taxonomy will inform the construction of the options.
Share on forum


1 hour

Participants will review item sets and appraise for:
range of syllabus dot points addressed- syllabus validity
viability of options – use of SOLO
Succinctness of stimulus
Each panel will suggest improvements to test items and add further items for each stimulus.

What To Bring

One engaging stimulus similar in style to those used in VALID Science (ESSA).

User Rating


Latest Reviews

Please note the feedback listed here is unfiltered, and includes all comments and ratings collected.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs.

Answered some questions for more setting MCQs.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs.

Informative, relevant.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs.

It was very informative.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs
by Sohini Bhave on 23/03/2017

Band descriptors,syllabus outcomes and maintaining good quality was greatly reinforced.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs
by Selvameenakshi Arunachalam on 23/03/2017

Enjoyed working with a group.Informative,challenging and valuable.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs
by Andrew Eaton on 13/04/2016

Great stuff. Plenty of good reflection time to work on examples.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs
by Stephen Smith on 13/04/2016

The writing of questions and the feedback from the questions was very helpful.

Write a better test: the art and science of writing MCQs

Jim knows his stuff! An expert in science and the pedagogical nature of presenting it. I have now made considerations about the way I will develop assessment and the use of stimuli.

About the team

Jim Sturgiss


Improving outcomes through aligned teaching practice synergies.

Jim is an educational researcher and independent educational consultant. A recipient of the NSW PTC Distinguished Service Award for leadership in delivering targeted professional learning to teachers, he works with schools to align assessment, reporting and learning practice. He has been a DoE Senior Assessment Advisor where he developed many statewide assessments, (ESSA, SNAP, ELLA, BST) and as Coordinator: Analytics where he developed reports to schools for statewide assessments and NAPLAN.

Selected NSW Department of Education and Communities appointments
2015                            Analytics, Systems and Development Coordinator 
2012 – 2013                School Assessment Design and Development Acting Coordinator (ESSA)
2007 – 2010                Head Teacher Science, Newtown High School of Performing Arts
2004 – 2005                Senior Assessment Officer, Computer Skills Assessment (CSA6)
2004                            Test Development Officer, Secondary Numeracy Assessment Program (SNAP)
2000 – 2004                Head Teacher Science, Concord High School 
1998 – 2000                Senior Assessment Officer, English Language and Literacy Assessment (ELLA)

Teaching Qualifications
1993 – 1997                M.Ed. (Hons) University of New England (Thesis: Literacy & learning in Science) 
1979                            Dip. Ed. University of Wollongong
1976 – 1978                B.Sc. University of Wollongong (Majors in Chemistry and Bioenergetics)