Tips to Create Effective Matching Questions for Assessments

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As teachers create their own tests and quizzes, they typically want to include a variety of objective questions. The four major types of objective questions include multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank, and matching. Matching questions are made up of two lists of related items that students must pair up by deciding which item in the first list corresponds to an item in the second list. They are appealing to many teachers because they provide a compact way to test a great deal of information in a short amount of time. However, creating effective matching questions requires some time and effort.

Advantages of Using Matching Questions

Matching questions have a number of advantages. As already stated, they are great at allowing teachers the ability to ask a number of questions in a short amount of time. In addition, these types of questions are quite useful for students with a low reading ability. According to Benson and Crocker (1979) in Educational and Psychological Measurement, students with low reading ability scored better and more consistently with matching questions than the other types of objective questions. They were found to be more reliable and valid. Thus, if a teacher has a number of students who have lower reading scores, they might want to consider including more matching questions on their assessments.

Hints for Creating Effective Matching Questions

  1. The directions for a matching question need to be specific. Students should be told what they are matching, even if it seems obvious. They should also be told how they are to record their answer. Further, the directions need to clearly state whether an item will be used once or more than once. Here is an example of well-written matching directions:
    Directions: Write the letter of the American president on the line next to his description. Each president will be used only once.
  2. Matching questions are made up of premises (left column) and responses (right column). More responses should be included than premises. For example, if you have four premises, you might want to include six responses.
  3. The responses should be the shorter items. They should be organized in an objective and logical manner. For example, they might be organized alphabetically, numerically, or chronologically.
  4. Both the list of premises and the list of responses should be short and homogenous. In other words, do not put too many items on each matching question.
  5. All responses should be logical distractors for the premises. In other words, if you are testing authors with their works, do not throw in a term with its definition.
  6. Premises should be approximately equal in length.
  7. Make sure that all of your premises and responses are on the same test printed page.

Limitations of Matching Questions

Even though there are a number of advantages to using matching questions, there are also a number of limitations that teachers must consider before including them in their assessments.

  1. Matching questions can only measure factual material. Teachers cannot use these to have students apply the knowledge they have learned or analyze information.
  2. They can only be used to assess homogenous knowledge. For example, a question based on matching elements with their atomic numbers would be acceptable. However, if a teacher wanted to include an atomic number question, a chemistry definition, a question about molecules, and one about states of matter, then a matching question would not work at all.
  3. They are most easily applied at an elementary level. Matching questions work quite well when the information being tested is basic. However, as a course increases in complexity, it is often difficult to create effective matching questions.
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Kelly, Melissa. "Tips to Create Effective Matching Questions for Assessments." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Kelly, Melissa. (2020, August 27). Tips to Create Effective Matching Questions for Assessments. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "Tips to Create Effective Matching Questions for Assessments." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).