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Assessment: True/false questions

Developing true/false questions

In a traditional true/false question, students are asked to judge whether a factual statement is either true or false. True/false questions are best suited to assessing surface level knowledge, but can be crafted to assess higher order thinking. Like multiple choice, students can process and respond to true/false quickly, allowing the test designer to assess more content areas in an exam. They are also easy and quick to mark. However, traditional multiple choice is thought to be superior to true/false for several reasons, including:

  • Students have a higher probability of guessing the right answer in True/False responses
  • True/false questions offer little insight into why students may answer incorrectly
  • True/false questions are necessarily absolute; it can be difficult to write questions that are unambiguously true or false.

Tips for developing true/false questions

  1. Avoid negative and double-negative statements. These can unnecessarily confuse students.
  2. Keep the proportion of false statements slightly higher than true statements. Students tend to guess “true” on uncertain questions.
  3. Avoid trivia. Make sure that your true/false questions directly assess learning goals.
  4. Many of the disadvantages of true/false questions can be eliminated by asking students to explain their answer. However, this approach has its own disadvantages (e.g., workload).