The Do’s and Don’ts of Survey Formatting

 Do you find your surveys are not giving you the information you need from your participants? This lack of information may be due to some common mistakes during survey formatting. Multiple choice tests are commonly used in employment settings, education systems, the service industry, and many other settings. In order to create a multiple choice test that collects the intended amount of information, make sure you follow these Do’s and Don’ts of survey formatting. 


  • Make all the options approximately the same length. It is more appealing to the test taker when all of the options look similar and one doesn’t stick out from the other options.
  • Use grammar that is consistent between the stem and the options. All possible options should grammatically fit with the question to be considered a possible correct answer.
  • Ask a question with only one main idea. Straight forward questions ask one question at a time. Avoid using words like ‘and’ that may connect two ideas in one question. (i.e. Is Cognitive Psychology fun and interesting? This question has two ideas; therefore it should be split into two separate questions.)


  • Use items that ask for the incorrect response. This confuses the test taker and he or she may incorrectly interpret the question. (i.e. Which one of the following theories is not based in Cognitive Psychology?)
  • Use definite words such as “always” and “never”. There may be one time instances of an example that would rule out the right answer and would confuse the test taker. (i.e. Is Florida always hot?)
  • Use implausible options that can easily be ruled out. All test options should be equally as plausible in order to get an accurate measurement of the test taker. (i.e. Where is Florida located ? a: Southeast b: Northwest c: outer space d: Northeast; Outer space is easily ruled out since it is not equally as plausible as the other options in the question.)
  • Write double negatives in the question. Double negatives could lead to misinterpretation of the question which leads to more error in the data.



About the Author:


Cognitive Performance Group, LLC is a woman-owned small business with offices in Orlando, Florida, and Cleveland, Ohio. It was founded by Dr. Karol G. Ross, Jennifer K. Phillips, and William A. Ross. The three CPG Principals developed the concept for a company to support cognitive performance improvement in industry and government. (more...)

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