Want an easy way to write test questions? Use concept theory

Marion Slack, Jill Augustine, Terri Warholak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: To review concept theory and to describe a model for using concept theory so as to develop multiple-choice questions that can test more advanced cognitive skills in the area of study design. Theory: Concepts are abstract categories containing information about objects, symbols, or events that share specific characteristics. Concepts serve as tools for identifying and categorizing objects, events, or situations, for instance, types of study designs, as examples or non-examples of a category. Application: The process for developing questions to test concept learning in study design can be summarized as follows: (1) identify the learning objectives that require concept classification (e.g., use verbs such as identify, differentiate, or compare); (2) identify new case examples (cases not previously encountered by students) of the target concepts (e.g., an abstract for a randomized controlled trial); and (3) use information from the case examples to write multiple-choice questions. The questions use concept names (e.g., independent variable) and specific examples from the case (e.g., blood pressure) in the question stem or as response options. Conclusions: By using concepts or specific examples from the case, multiple-choice questions that test concept skills critical to using the literature in clinical practice were developed. Use of a case example new to students assures answers cannot be memorized, and use of coordinate concepts as response options assures all options are viable choices. An advantage of using concept theory is that some questions can be reused with new case examples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)412-420
Number of pages9
JournalCurrents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Curriculum
  • Pharmacy
  • Research design
  • Students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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