Item Writing Instructions 

All test questions (items) for the examination are multiple choice, with four choices, only one of which is correct. Items must be based on the test content outline.

Items should have a reference source and content code which can be found in the Body of Knowledge section of each respective Handbook for Candidates.

Each multiple choice item is composed of a stem, followed by four options; one correct option and three distracters. Example:

Stem                                   Who invented the light bulb?
Correct option                     1. Thomas Alva Edison
Distracter                             2. Benjamin Franklin
Distracter                             3. Alexander Graham Bell
Distracter                             4. Leonardo da Vinci

The stem may also be in the form of an incomplete sentence.  Example:

Stem                                   The light bulb was invented by:
Correct option                    1. Thomas Alva Edison
Distracter                            2. Benjamin Franklin
Distracter                            3. Alexander Graham Bell
Distracter                            4. Leonardo da Vinci

Characteristics of a Good Stem

  • It presents a problem situation clearly.
  • It is stated positively rather than negatively.
  • It avoids the use of the pronouns “it,” “he,” “she,” and “you."
  • It is presented as simply as possible, including only information that is necessary to understand the problem.
  • It includes any words that would have to be repeated in each option.
  • It specifies the authority or standard upon which the correct option is based, if the item calls for a judgment.
  • It poses a problem to which the correct answer is not likely to change over time.
  • It focuses on important learning objectives and avoids testing trivia.

Characteristics of Good Options

  • Correct options are unquestionably correct and distractors are unquestionably wrong.
  • All four options are grammatically related to the stem.
  • The four options are homogeneous in terms of structure as well as content.
  • The correct option is similar in length to the distractors.
  • Absolute terms have been avoided (do not contain words like “all,” “none,” “always,” and “never.”)
  • Options are mutually exclusive.
  • Do not use “none of the above” or “all of the above."