The Importance of Writing Effective Distractors

Writing Distractors Is Not Easy

The purpose of a test is to determine a participant’s mastery of the performance objectives and to find out whether a learning experience was successful. Effective distractors (the incorrect answers in selected-response tests) can play an important role in getting the measurement data you’re seeking. Well-written distractors provide information that no other aspect of the assessment can. But, writing effective distractors is one of the most difficult tasks of learning design. Improving our skills in writing distractors, therefore, is of great importance.

For this article, I’ve scanned the academic literature to present some of the most valuable research findings about, yes, distractors. Distractors should be free from flaws in order to make a test as valid (you are measuring what you intend to measure) and reliable (test consistency) as possible.

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