Multiple Choice Questions

Learn everything about Multiple Choice Questions, its variations and effective usage for insightful market research surveys.

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What are multiple choice questions?

Multiple choice questions are the most fundamental components of a survey where the respondents are expected to select one or more than one option from the multiple answer options.

Whenever we think of conducting surveys, we think of two things: kind of questions to ask and data collected from the answers to those questions. Essentially, the most important aspect of surveys is to formulate relevant questions that will help us extract clean data.

There are various forms of questions that a survey creator can ask to evoke necessary responses from the person undertaking the survey. Out of these variations, the Closed Ended Questions are the most used in surveys.

Parts and Examples of Multiple Choice Questions

Keep the following factors in mind while designing Multiple Choice Questions-

A multiple choice question comprises of a stem, the correct answer/s and the distractors.

Multiple Choice Questions
  1. A stem, that’s the question i.e. a problem or an incomplete statement - Make sure that you create a crisp, grammatically error-free and simple stem which has relevant information.
  2. The correct answer - This should be relevant to the stem and shouldn't consist of too many qualifiers like "always" and "some”. Use phrases as options when the stem is an incomplete statement.
  3. The other incorrect responses which are called ‘distractors’ - Ideally, create 4 distractors and should be in line with the correct answer. These distractors should usually be common misconceptions that your target audience may have.


How to make sure you create effective multiple choice questions? - Stem

Types of Multiple Choice Questions

The primary bifurcation of these questions is based on the number of answer options the respondents can select while responding the survey. So, single choice questions and multiple choice (multiple answer) questions are the two available main question types.

The first and most frequently asked question type is the single choice question which allows the respondents to select only one option out of all the mentioned options. Usually, rating questions or questions like NPS or nominal questions where you wouldn’t want the respondents to give more than one answers, the single choice questions are implemented.

Single choice questions are the most effective when you want the survey takers to respond with their preferences of what they like or dislike the most out of the mentioned options.

While these are highly preferable, the multiple choice (multiple answer) questions are not that far behind in popularity. When you do not want to restrict the respondents to just a single answer, you offer this type of question.

Let’s take the following example of what is the favorite social networking platform for the respondents. If you want them to select just one answer, you would pose the question as: “Which is your most preferred social networking platform?” while if you would want them to give multiple options of their preferences, you’d ask: “Which of the following social networking platforms do you prefer the most?”

Type of Multiple Choice Questions Example

Alternatives to the Usual Multiple Choice Questions

Deciding which type of multiple choice question to implement is just a step in the process of using these questions effectively. The next step here should be deciding whether or not to use the alternatives of MCQs.

Like, using open-ended questions along with these questions such as an “others” tab below all the mentioned options eliminates the restraint that these type of questions get with them. Multiple choice questions usually bound the respondents to reply from the mentioned answer options, without giving them enough leeway. By adding a tab for “others”, you offer them the freedom of not choosing an option that they don’t relate to and doing so will just increase the effectiveness of the provided responses.

The answers provided in the “others” tab will be reflected in the analysis dashboard but it will be a manual process. So, make sure you give this option only towards the end of every question so that not every respondent writes in the response, which will weaken the comparison perspective of the survey.

Another very effective way to use multiple choice questions is the rating type of question such as the Net Promoter Score questions, Semantic Differential Scale questions or Likert Scale questions. Respondents are asked to fill out ratings for a particular feature or product or feature on different scales like 1-10, 1-50 or 1-100 that would represent their feedback.

Net Promoter Score questions are usually used to understand the likelihood of brand shareability and recommendation. These questions are used in employee engagement or customer experience surveys.

Multiple Choice Questions NPS Example

Other than that, the other most widely used question type is the Likert Scale question type. This is not the usual Yes/No question, it’s a question where respondents are supposed to answer how much they Agree/Disagree with the question of the survey.

Multiple Choice Questions Likert Scale Example

While Likert Scale questions grab the limelight, there’s another question type which is more or less as effective as it, the Semantic Differential Scale question. This question type is used when the respondents’ emotional take on the topic is to be understood. The answers to this question are grammatically opposite adjectives like love/hate, happy/sad, satisfied/dissatisfied with transitional answers in the between.

Multiple Choice Questions Semantic Scale Example

Different Formats of the Multiple Choice Questions

Dropdown Multiple choice question

Advantages of using Multiple Choice Questions in a Survey

  1. They are less complicated and less time consuming

    Imagine the pain a respondent goes through while having to type in answers when they can simply answer the questions at the click of a button. Here is where multiple choice lessens the complications.

    Many-a-times the survey creator would want to ask straightforward questions to the respondent, the best practice is to provide the choices instead of them coming up with answers, this in-turn saves their valuable time.

  2. Responses get a specific structure and are easy to analyze

    Surveys are often developed with respondents in mind, how will they answer the questions? This is where multiple choice gives a specific structure to responses, therefore becomes the best choice.

    Let’s say at your workplace you receive a survey asking about the best restaurant, to host the Christmas party. Honestly speaking giving specific options isn’t going to hurt, rather, as a surveyor you are sure that the answer will be from one of the options given to the respondents.

    It will be easier for the surveyor to analyze the data as it will be free from any errors (as respondents won’t be typing in answers) and the surveyor would atleast know that not a random restaurant would be chosen.

  3. Helps respondent comprehend how they should answer

    One of the positives of multiple choice options is that they help respondents understand how they should answer. In this manner, the surveyor can chose how generalist or specific the responses need to be.

    At all times, the surveyor needs to be careful on the choice of question in order to be able to receive responses that are easy to analyze.

  4. They appear to look good on handheld devices

    It is estimated that 1 out of 5 people take surveys on handheld devices like mobile phones or tablets. Considering the fact that there is no mouse or keyboard to use, multiple choice questions make it easier for the respondent to choose as there is no scrolling involved.

Therefore, in a survey you might end up answering a number of multiple choice questions and for a good reason, easy for the respondents to answer and convenient for the surveyor to collect data.

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