Characteristics of Good Questions
Every question should:
- End in a question mark (?)
- AAO and ABO formats require a question mark as final punctuation!
- Avoid open-ended statements ending in colons (:) - they will have to be edited.
- Be answerable even with the options covered.
- Passing this “cover test” means that the wording of the question is straightforward and eliminates most obscure and irrelevant questions. AAO and ABO questions must meet this standard.
- Be worded in a positive manner.
- Avoid negatively worded questions: “All of the following EXCEPT”; “Which is NOT”; “Which is LEAST likely”.
- Avoid questions that have double negatives.
- Be clear and focused.
- Avoid open-ended statements.
- Be concise.
- Reducing the word count increases comprehension and clarity.
- Gauge knowledge or clinical competence.
- Questions should test useful information.
- Avoid trivia and memory recall questions.
- Ask for an answer, not “which is correct" or "true/false“.
- Question formats that ask "which of the following are true statements" do not meet the AAO or ABO format.
- Use current, widely-accepted terminology.
- Jargon is common in ophthalmology, lead-in statements can contain definitions of rare terms.
- Avoid ambiguous, indefinite and absolute terms.
- E.g. – might, may, sometimes, never, always.
Note: If you write a clinical scenario, a clear question should be presented at the end:
- “Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis, cause, complication?”
- “Which of the following procedures, tests, treatments is most appropriate?”
Characteristics of Good Answer Choices
Note: Ensure that there is only one correct/defensible answer and three incorrect answer choices. Content that is controversial or varies regionally should be avoided in order to eliminate the possibility of more than one correct answer.
Every answer choice should:
- Be of parallel type.
- E.g. – all choices are tests, treatments, symptoms, diagnoses.
- Be balanced in plausibility, length and amount of detail.
- Preferred English uses balanced clauses.
- The answer structure should be the same for each choice.
- Be as brief as possible.
- Rarely exceed more than one line. Several words per choice are even better.
- Be listed in logical, alphabetical or numerical order unless doing so gives away the correct response.
- Be attractive to at least some candidates.
- Incorrect answers should not be obviously wrong, implausible or silly.
- Avoid having the same words appear in both the question and the answer choices.
- Avoid mutually exclusive responses.
- These help candidates because if you know one response is false, then the other must be true.
- Do not include “All of the Above” or ” None of the Above”.
- These are not used in AAO or ABO formatted questions.