The multiple choice question is a favorite among survey creators. The flexible format makes it easy to ask survey takers for practically any type of info. Plus, the question type is familiar and intuitive, which boosts survey response rates and makes for better feedback.
As straightforward as the question type may be, using it effectively still takes some surveying skills. In this post, we’ll cover the fundamentals and must-dos of multiple choice questions to help you ace your next survey.
Selecting the right multiple choice format
There are three main formats to choose from with multiple choice questions: Traditional, Picture Choice, and Grid. Each one serves a slightly different purpose, which we’ll get into below. However, with any of the three formats, you can do all of the following:
Require an answer before respondents can proceed
Limit responses to one answer or allow for multiple answers
Randomize answers to cut down on bias
Let’s take a look at each format option.
Traditional Multiple Choice
Quick and simple, the Traditional Multiple Choice Question offers a set of text answers. It’s a great way to collect demographic info, ask about personal preferences, or present basic yes/no questions. You can even include a comment field to ask survey takers for more info about their answer.
Try it out!
Sometimes questions call for visuals. Maybe you’re asking for feedback on event speakers and want to include their photos, or you’re working on a new logo and want feedback. The Picture Choice format functions just like the Traditional format, but answers are in the form of pictures, not words (though you can add labels too!).
Try it out!
Multiple Choice Grid
Ever wanted to ask the same question about many different topics? The Multiple Choice Grid format makes it easy to condense several multiple choice questions into one. For example, if you’re asking managers to rate employee performance, you could include each rating factor in one question, like below. This makes it simple to collect comprehensive feedback without exhausting your survey takers.
Writing effective multiple choice questions
Once you’ve settled on your format, you can focus on the semantics. The structure and wording of your multiple choice question greatly impacts your survey results. If the question is confusing or the answers are imbalanced, your results will show it. Here are some tips on writing the perfect multiple choice question.
Be as concise as possible.
Use a simple sentence structure.
Avoid negatives (e.g. “Which logo do you not prefer?”).
Focus on one thing. Don’t fall into the trap of the “double-barreled” question (e.g. “How often do you read newspapers and magazines?”).
Remove leading phrases (e.g. “How happy did we make you?”) that could bias respondents and sway your results.
Stick to 5 answer choices or less.
Aim for the same general answer length when possible.
Use the same structure for each answer.
Randomize your answers to reduce bias.
Include an “Other” option when it makes sense.
More tips on mastering multiple choice
Plan with a focus. Define your goals before you start drafting questions. When you’re clear on what you’re trying to learn or achieve, you’ll see better results.
Mix up your question types. If you ask too many multiple choice questions in a row, survey takers will zone out and begin answering mindlessly. Try to incorporate a variety of question types in your survey to keep people tuned in.
Ask for follow-up info. Sometimes the most important feedback you get comes from open-ended questions. If your question calls for it, include a short answer question that asks survey takers to elaborate or explain their answer.
What do we love most about the multiple choice question?A) It’s versatileB) It’s intuitive.C) It’s familiar.D) All of the above, obviously
Ready to become a question master? Dive deeper with The Complete Guide to Survey Question Types.