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ABSTRACT: Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate the quality of multiple choice question (MCQ) items in two postgraduate paediatric dentistry (PD) examinations by determining item writing flaws (IWFs), difficulty index (DI)
and cognitive level. Methods: This study was conducted at Mohamed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dubai, UAE. Virtual platform-based summative versions of the general paediatric medicine (GPM) and prevention of oral diseases (POD) examinations administered during the second semester of the 2017–2018 academic year were used. Two PD faculty members independently reviewed each question to assess IWFs, DI and cognitive level. Results: A total of 185 single best answer MCQs with 4–5 options were analysed. Most of the questions (81%) required information recall, with the remainder (19%) requiring higher levels of thinking and data explanation. The most common errors among IWFs were the use of “except” or “not” in the lead-in, tricky or unfocussed stems and opportunities for students to use convergence strategies. There were more IWFs in the GPM than the POD examination, but this was not statistically significant (P = 0.105). The MCQs in the GPM and POD examination were considered easy since the mean DIs (89.1% ± 8.9% and 76.5% ± 7.9%, respectively) were more than 70%. Conclusion: Training is an essential element of adequate MCQ writing. A general comprehensive review of all programme’s MCQs is needed to emphasise the importance of avoiding IWFs. A faculty development programme is recommended to improve question-writing skills in order to align examinations with programme learning outcomes and enhance the ability to measure student competency through questions requiring higher level thinking.
Keywords: Examination Question; Student; Educational Measurement; Discriminant Analysis; Pediatric Dentistry; United Arab Emirates.