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A. Introduction to True-False (Forced-Choice) Questions
B. Writing True-False (Forced Choice) Questions and Evaluating Responses

B. Writing True-False Questions and Evaluating Responses


        In the most basic format, true-false questions are those in which a statement is presented and the student indicates in some manner whether the statement is true or false. In other words, there are only two possible responses for each item, and the student chooses between them. Other forced choice question styles will be discussed later in this module.

        True-false questions require the students to select a response (true or false) that shows recognition of correct or incorrect information that is presented to them. These are included among the items that are called "selection," in contrast to "supply" items in which the student must supply the correct information. Another term applied to these items is "forced choice" because the student must choose between two possible answers. Educational objectives that specify the student will "identify," "select," and  Not a link: Current module is True-False Questions"recognize" material are appropriately targeted to either forced choice questions or more complex matching or multiple choice questions.

        True-false questions are well suited for testing student recall or comprehension. Students can generally respond to many questions, covering a lot of content, in a fairly short amount of time. From the teacher's perspective, these questions can be written quickly and are easy to score. Because they can be objectively scored, the scores are more reliable than for items that are at least partially dependent on the teacher's judgment.

        Scores on true-false items tend to be high because of the ease of guessing correct answers when the answer is not known. With only two choices (true or false) the student could expect to guess correctly on half of the items for which correct answers are not known. Thus, if a student knows the correct answers to 10 questions out of 20 and guesses on the other 10, the student could expect a score of 15. The teacher can anticipate scores ranging from approximately 50% for a student who did nothing but guess on all items to 100% for a student who knew the material.

        Because these items are in the form of statements, there is sometimes a tendency to take quotations from the text, expecting the student to recognize a correct quotation or note a change (sometimes minor) in wording. There may also be a tendency to include trivial or inconsequential material from the text. Both of these practices are discouraged.

        A good use of true-false questions is for the student to demonstrate understanding or simple logic. These questions can also be used effectively in stating cause and effect relationships (Example 1 below), established by the use of "because" in the statement. If the reason for conducting school on a year-round basis were because students retain more and teachers spend less time reviewing, the statement in Example 1 would be false. 

  1. Year-round schooling is implemented because students like the air-conditioned schools in the summer.
          Unless an item is intended to show cause and effect, it should contain only one idea (Example 2). If more than one idea is contained (Example 3), one part of the statement may be true while the other part is false, leaving the student confused as to how to answer.
  2. The University is centrally located in the city.
  3. The University is centrally located in the city with sufficient student parking.
  If the statement is an opinion, rather than a fact, it should be attributed to someone, as in Example 4. A good indicator that a statement is an opinion is the use of "should" or similar language in the statement.
  4. According to the President, teachers in rural areas should be first to receive salary increases.
          One suggested method for developing true-false items is to write a set of true statements that cover the content, then convert approximately half of them to false statements. When changing items to false (as well as in writing the true statements initially), it is best to keep items stated positively, avoiding negatives or double negatives. If negatives (such as the word "not") are used, there should be some way of calling attention to them: putting them in italics, bold type, or capital letters, or underlining them. Example 5a starts with a positive statement, then shows possible changes to address the content while making it a false statement. While 5c is an improvement over 5b, 5d is the preferred one.
  5a. Writing objectives precedes development of curriculum. (original true statement)
  5b. Writing objectives does not precede development of curriculum. (unwieldy false statement containing "not")
  5c. Writing objectives does NOT precede development of curriculum. (improved false statement)
  5d. Development of curriculum precedes writing objectives. (preferred false statement)
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Other guidelines suggested by some authors for writing true-false items include the following:
* Statements should be relatively short and simple.
* True statements should be about the same length as false statements. (There is a tendency to add details in true statements to make them more precise.)
* The answers should not be obvious to students who don't know the material.
* Sweeping broad general statements or absolutes (all, always, never, none, only), such as Example 6, tend to be false, since the student need think of only a single incident in which it is untrue to mark it false.
  6. Students who make As always have above average IQ scores.
* A similar situation occurs with the use of "can" in a true-false statement. If the student knows of a single case in which something could be done, it would be true.
* Ambiguous or vague statements and terms, such as "large," "long time," "regularly," "some," and "usually" are best avoided in the interest of clarity. Some terms have more than one meaning and may be interpreted differently by individuals as in Example 7.
  7. A nickel is larger than a dime. (True if we are talking about diameter, false if we are talking about the monetary value.)
* While one author recommends having about the same number of true and false statements, another suggests having a larger number of false statements. A good guideline is to vary the ratio of true/false statements from test to test or quiz to quiz so that students do not depend on previous tests for cues as to the balance of true and false questions.
* If students are to write in a "T" or "F" to indicate answers, their handwriting can cause errors in marking. This can be avoided by having them circle or underline their answers ("T" or "F," "true" or "false"), which would be typed beside each question.
* Determine that the questions are appropriately answered by "True" or "False" rather than by some other type of response, such as "Yes" or "No."
* Finally, arrange the statements so that there is no discernible pattern of answers (such as T, F, T, F, T, F and T, T, F, F, T, T, F, F) for True and False statements.
* Be sure to include directions that tell students how and where to mark their responses.
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  Yes-No In this variation, as shown in Example 8, the student responds "Yes" or "No" to each item as a variation of the True-False format.
8. What reasons are given by students for taking evening classes? In the list below, circle "Yes" if that is one of the reasons given by students for enrolling in evening classes; circle "No" if that is not a reason given by students.
  Yes No They are employed during the day.  
  Yes No They are working toward a degree.  
  Yes No They like going to school.  
  Yes No They can't find good prime-time television shows to watch.
  Yes No It is easy to find parking places on campus at night.
  Checklist An alternative form of the question in Example 8 would be to ask the student to check beside each answer for which the answer would be "Yes" in Example 8, not marking beside the "no" responses (Example 9)
9. Check beside each of the following that are listed by evening school students as reasons for taking evening classes; leave blank those not listed by students.
    _____ Employed during the day  
    _____ Working toward a degree  
    _____ Like going to school  
    _____ Can't find good prime-time television shows to watch
    _____ Ease of finding parking places on campus at night  
  In both of these variations there is a choice of two responses for each item (forced choice) and the student selects a response from alternatives provided rather than supplying information.
  Example 10 shows a set of questions for which the same two answers apply to a set of questions, but the answers are categories of content rather than true/false or yes/no. This is another form of forced choice question because for each item the student must choose between A and B.
10. Indicate whether each type of question below is a selection type of supply type by circling "A" if it is selection, "B" if it is supply.
  Select Supply    
  A B Multiple choice  
  A B True-False  
  A B Essay  
  A B Matching  
  A B Short Answer  
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        While true-false and other forced choice questions are generally used to measure knowledge and understanding, they could also be used at higher levels. Students could be provided with a set of information new to them, perhaps a portfolio, set of data, or a written work of some type, then asked various forced-choice questions related to the content or the presence/absence of certain characteristics in the work.
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        Yet another variation of True-False question is the True-False Correction question. Statements are presented, and each statement contains a key word or brief phrase that is underlined. It is not enough that a student correctly identify a statement as being false. To receive credit for a statement labeled false, the student must also supply the correct word or phrase which, when used to replace the underlined part of the statement, makes the statement a true one.

        This type of item is more thorough in determining whether students actually know the information that is presented in the false statements. While a student might correctly guess that a statement is false, no credit would be given unless the student could change the statement to a true one by writing word/words to replace underlined word(s). The teacher decides what word/phrase can be changed in the sentence; if students were instructed only to make the statement a true statement, they would have the liberty of completely rewriting the statement so that the teacher might not be able to determine whether or not the student understood what was wrong with the original statement.

        If, however, the underlined word/phrase is one that can be changed to its opposite (as shown in Example 11) it loses the advantage over the simpler true-false question because all the student has to know is that the statement is false and change "is" to "is not."

11. True False___________ The Internal Revenue Service is the federal government agency established to monitor transportation.
If the objective is for the student to know the federal governmental agencies and their respective functions, the question might be better presented as shown in Example 12.
12. True False___________ The Internal Revenue Service is the federal government agency established to monitor transportation.
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