Skip to main content


Assessments, tests, exams, and quizzes often carry significant weight for learners and are commonly used as determining factors in decisions regarding program completion, certification, promotions, etc. While it’s crucial that teachers and corporate trainers have a certain level of mastery at developing assessments, researchers have discovered that this isn’t often the case (Simsek, 2016). Regardless of the setting, they’ve found several of the same mistakes in instructor-developed assessments. We've listed these mistakes, and a few recommendations, below.

Common Mistakes

The most common mistakes include:

  • Implausible or illogical distractors, which are options that can be easily avoided or ruled out when answering a question
  • The inclusion of hints or cues, which can provide helpful insight to the correct response to a different question
  • An illogical order of options or regular sequence of correct answers
  • Highlighting the correct response in the form of the longest, most well-developed option
  • Inclusion of phrases like “in your opinion” and “to your best knowledge”


If you're creating multiple-choice questions (one of the most common types of assessment question), the article has a series of recommendations for you (Simsek, 2016, p. 479):

  • Consider learning objectives
  • Provide clear directions
  • Judge parallel alternatives carefully
  • Control item difficulty
  • Avoid overlapping items and alternatives
  • Pay attention to correct grammar
  • Use plausible distractors
  • Avoid ambiguity
  • Locate correct response randomly
  • Use appropriate number of alternatives
  • Avoid unnecessary cues or hints
  • Apply correction for guessing
  • Use words efficiently
  • Avoid subjective or judgmental questions
  • Organize alternatives logically
  • Avoid “none” or “all” options
  • Emphasize negative statements in questions
  • Avoid double‐barrel items
  • Provide the right amount of information
  • Avoid implying the correct response

Key Takeaway

Assessment designers, instructors, trainers, and other educators should keep these common mistakes in mind to avoid developing flawed testing instruments.

Subscribe to Learning Science Weekly

This article review and summary was included in Learning Science Weekly, a weekly newsletter published by the researchers in Intellum's Learning Science department. If you'd like more recommendations on how you can apply findings from the learning sciences into your practice, subscribe today!

Read More

Simsek, A. (2016). A comparative analysis of common mistakes in achievement tests prepared by school teachers and corporate trainers. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education.

Download the Article

Because the article was published under an open-access license, we've included it here. It's worth a full read!

Did this article help?

Let us know by leaving a star rating or review at the top of this article.