[Owasp-cert] Exam Item Writing

Gary Palmer owasp at getmymail.org
Tue Aug 5 00:14:56 EDT 2008

I like this, especially since it provides definitions (which typically cause
lots of confusion if not stated up front).  The concepts of "items", "key
choices", distracters, etc. are not unique here, but I submit that we use
these accepted terms and definitions to avoid confusion.
To quote the document and make it easier for this list:
Multiple-choice items consist of a stem and four possible options.

Item Stem - The item stem is the introductory statement or question that
describes a situation or circumstance related to the knowledge being
assessed. Item stems can be written in the form of an incomplete statement
as well as in question form.

Item Options - The options complete the introductory statement or answer the
question and consist of one correct answer (key) and three incorrect answers
or distracters.

Key - The key must reflect current practice. In some cases the key will be
the only correct choice, while in other cases the key will be deemed to be
the BEST choice when considered against the other choices provided.

Distracters - Distracters are the incorrect options but should be plausible
or possible correct answers to candidates who are not knowledgeable enough
to choose the key.

The steps outlined are also succinct and useful, they are modified to remove
Isaca specifics. 

STEP 1 - Write the item stem and keyable answer (Answer A on the Item
Construction Form).

STEP 2 - Develop plausible distracters. The distracters should not be made
up words or phrases, but may appear to be correct choices to an
inexperienced professional. The development of quality distracters is
usually the most difficult task for an item writer. If you have difficulty
with this part of item development, consult with other staff members or
subject matter experts.

STEP 3 - Include a thorough explanation of why the keyable answer is correct
as well as why each distracter is not a correct choice. It is not acceptable
to simply state that the distracters are incorrect.

STEP 4 - Include the reference sources on the Item Construction Form. Refer
to KNET on the ISACA web site for applicable references -

STEP 5 - Review your item using the Item Development Checklist found in
Appendix C.

STEP 6 - Have a peer or colleague review and critique your item.

STEP 7 - Submit the item to ISACA (refer to Item Submission and Review

VERY IMPORTANT IMHO is #3, a good explanation of why the key is right and
distracters wrong.  That helps anyone assessing a complaint about a specific
item.  There is more in this document and I leave you all to cull your



From: owasp-cert-bounces at lists.owasp.org
[mailto:owasp-cert-bounces at lists.owasp.org] On Behalf Of
james at architectbook.com
Sent: Monday, August 04, 2008 5:29 AM
To: owasp-cert at lists.owasp.org
Subject: [Owasp-cert] Exam Item Writing

I came across an interesting guide on item writing for the CISA
certification. I think the principles apply here:
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