I write all of my own tests, both for the college courses I teach, and for my 5th grade class. Multiple choice questions are an entirely valid form of question, if they are well constructed. I’ll get back to this in a moment.
Question 1 is clearly unfair. It should be written as an alternate response question, like this:
Place an I in front of the animals that are insects, and N in front of those that are not insects.
Question 2 isn’t a trick question, but it is a very difficult question, and the question itself is poorly worded. The question should be changed to “Which is characteristic of ALL raincoats?” It is a “best answer” type multiple choice question.
There are two types of multiple choice question. The first is the correct answer type question. These have only one correct answer, with two to four incorrect answers. These can vary from easy to very difficult. The second type is the best answer question. This type may include more than one answer that could be considered correct for the question, but has one answer that is better than the others. These are more difficult than correct answer type questions.
Question difficulty generally depends on the number of “distractors” that are included. A distractor is a wrong answer that could seem right to someone who doesn’t know the material well. Easy questions don’t have any distractors. More difficult questions have 1 or 2. The most difficult questions may have distractors that are at least partially right, making the question into a “best answer” question. A good test will consist of range of questions from easy to difficult, with a majority of the questions being somewhere in the middle. A question with one distractor is considered moderately difficult.
For example, suppose the question was this:
Where is the Eiffel Tower located?
The answer sets might be
- A. Paris B. Moon C. Atlantis D. Carnegie Hall
- A. Paris B. London C. Atlantis D. Carnegie Hall
- A. Paris B. London C. Rome D. New York
- A. Earth B. Europe C. France D. Paris
Set 1 is the easiest; there is only one correct answer, and no distractors; all of the wrong answers are obviously wrong.
Set 2 has one distractor (London), Set 3 has three.
Set 4 has four correct answers, but one (Paris) which is better than the others.
All of these are fair questions of increasing difficulty. On my tests, most of MP questions will have answer sets like #2, with a few like #1, and a few like #3. I only use answer sets like #4 in my college classes.
Trick questions are those in which what the question is actually asking is different from what it seems to be asking, and are unfair. A question can be very difficult without being a trick question. To determine fairness, one needs to ask, “Will someone who knows the material well be able to answer the question correctly?” If the answer is yes, the question is fair. If a question is constructed in such a way that people who know the material well are led away from the correct answer, it is unfair.