Social Psychology Network

Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Tips on How to Construct Test Items

One week before each exam, you will be expected to turn in a set of 5 items for possible use in the upcoming test: 3 multiple choice items and 2 true-false items. To help you complete this assignment with style, here are a few tips:

  1. The best exam items are those that test how well people understand the course material. Accordingly, your items should go beyond rote learning, definitions, and terminology.

  2. Don't submit items that you yourself would regard as picky. Instead, get test takers to apply the material to new situations. Test them on the social and societal implications of the material. Draw novel connections. In short, think BIG and think CREATIVELY.

  3. Jazzing up items to make them interesting is fine, but don't get so carried away that the context becomes distracting or the item turns into a mini-essay. Also, make sure that references to TV characters and campus life will be understandable to all test takers, including international and transfer students.

  4. Items should be difficult for people who don't know the material, but they should be straightforward for those who do. If an item is difficult because of complicated wording (e.g., double negatives) or vocabulary, you will be testing verbal ability rather than a command of social psychology.

  5. Ask yourself whether each decoy (i.e., incorrect answer) in a multiple-choice question:

    is plausible enough to be chosen

    could possibly be argued as correct

    Each decoy should stand a reasonable chance of being selected by someone who does not know the material, but at the same time, decoys should never, never, never be correct, even under remote circumstances. Also, true-false items should not exceed one sentence.

  6. Remember: To get full credit, you must submit 3 multiple-choice and 2 true-false items, typewritten with the correct answers and page number references for any items based on the textbook or supplemental readings. Perhaps the best advice for this assignment is to check this page carefully before turning in your items. If you follow the guidelines above, you should have no problem receiving full credit for the assignment.

Multiple Choice Examples

  1. Julia is about to go on a first date with LaVon, whom she has emailed through a singles web site but has never met in person. If Julia fears rejection, she might exhibit self-handicapping behavior by:

    A. Talking about her high salary to impress LaVon
    B. Pretending that she has a broken arm to get sympathy
    C. Arriving late so that she has an excuse if LaVon doesn't like her
    D. Bringing LaVon an expensive box of chocolates

    ANSWER: C [Myers, p. 78]

  2. Research suggests that the overjustification effect is mainly a function of self-______:

    A. presentation
    B. perception
    C. serving biases
    D. monitoring

    ANSWER: B [Myers, p. 159]

True-False Examples

  1. As used in social psychology, "attitudes" are generally evaluative in nature (positive or negative), whereas "opinions" need not be. [True: Lecture, 9/19/2006]

  2. In David Rosenhan's article "On Being Sane in Insane Places," the sanity of the "pseudopatients" was never detected by hospital workers or other patients on the ward. [False: Rosenhan Article, p. 41]

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