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Detailed Guidelines of Making MCQs

This guideline will assist you in your efforts to develop MCQs for CA Intermediate and CA Final exams. It opens with CA exam structure and explains MCQs in the light of the same with examples. It clearly elaborates MCQ writing steps and suffice you with general MCQ writing principles and Item Development Checklist.

CA Exam Structure

As announced that from May 2019 attempt, the question paper pattern of the theoretical papers at CA Intermediate and CA Final levels would be 30% objective and 70% descriptive under both Old and New Schemes. In order to assist students in their preparation as per the new pattern of examination, we request students and teachers to contribute multiple choice questions for the following papers:

CA Intermediate

Paper 2: Corporate & Other Laws
Paper 4: Taxation
Paper 6: Auditing & Assurance
Paper 7: Enterprise Information System & Strategic Management

CA Final

Paper 3: Advanced Auditing and Professional Ethics
Paper 4: Corporate and Economic Laws
Paper 7: Direct Tax Laws & International Taxation
Paper 8: Indirect Tax Laws

ICAI has mandated following rules regarding MCQs:

  1. In each of the above papers, the weightage for MCQs would be 30%. The remaining questions i.e., 70% of the paper would be as per the present pattern of assessment.
  2. The MCQs will be for 30 Marks in each 100 marks paper. They would be in the nature of objective type questions carrying 1 or 2 marks.
  3. Each MCQ will have 4 options, out of which 1 option would be the correct answer.
  4. The 1 mark MCQs would be in the range of 10 to 16 MCQs; the 2 mark MCQs would be in the range of 7 to 10 MCQs.
  5. The MCQs will be compulsory and there would be no internal or external choice in them.
  6. The MCQs may be either knowledge-based or application-based. The skill level would be either “knowledge and comprehension” or “application and analysis”.
  7. There will be no negative marking for wrong answers.
  8. No reasoning is required for answers to MCQs.

What is MCQ?

The CA exam will consist of a variety of multiple-choice items. Multiple-choice items consist of a stem and four possible alternatives.

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 Choices (Alternatives):

The alternatives complete the introductory statement or answer the question and consist of one correct answer (key) and three incorrect answers or distractors.


In some cases, the key will be the only correct alternative, while in other cases the key will be deemed to be the BEST alternative when considered against the others provided.


Distractors are the incorrect alternatives but should be plausible or possible correct answers to candidates who are inexperienced or not knowledgeable enough to choose the key.

Steps to Writing Items

STEP 1: Select a topic of your chosen paper. Items should focus on a single topic or knowledge statement. Items written from a knowledge statement will most likely result in higher quality, experience-based questions.
While writing your item, please refer to General MCQ Writing Principles for further guidance and review your item using the Item Development Checklist. Development Checklist is part of this document and you will be able to find it afterwards.
STEP 2: Write the item stem and keyable answer (Answer A).
STEP 3: Develop plausible distractors. The distractors should not be made-up words or phrases. Distractors should appear to be correct alternatives to the exam takers. The development of quality distractors is usually the most difficult task for an item writer. If you have difficulty with this part of item development, it may be helpful to consult with your colleagues. Also think about what an exam taker might think the correct answer would be.
STEP 4: Include a thorough explanation of why the keyable/correct answer is correct as well as why each distractor is not a correct alternative. It is not acceptable to simply state that the distractors are “incorrect”.
STEP 5: Include any and all reference sources, if possible.
STEP 6: Review the item using the Item Development Checklist.

Item Construction Examples

Items can either be direct questions or incomplete statements.

Direct question:

Step: Which of the following should be included in an IT strategic plan?


A. Analysis of future business objectives
B. Specifications for planned hardware purchases
C. Target dates for development projects
D. Annual budgetary targets for the IT department

Note that the stem is in the form of a question.

Incomplete statement:
Step: IT governance helps to ensure that an organization aligns its IT strategy with:
Alternatives A. enterprise objectives.
B. IT objectives.
C. audit objectives.
D. control objectives.
Note that the responses for this item start with a lowercase letter and are followed by a period, as the responses serve to complete the sentence started in the stem.
It is wise to draft an item first as a direct question, and then revise it to an incomplete sentence if this offers smoother, less repetitive wording.

General MCQ Writing Principles

  1. The first thing to consider when writing an MCQ is the exam candidate. We have already covered a few highlights of CA Exam structure.
  2. Test only one testing concept or knowledge statement per item.
  3. Ensure the stem and all alternatives are compatible with each other. For example, if your stem reads, “Which of the following controls will BEST…”, then all alternatives must be controls.
  4. Keep the stem and alternatives as short as possible by avoiding the use of unnecessary text or jargon. Do not attempt to teach the candidate a concept or theory by providing too much information before asking the question.
  5. Include common words or phrases in the item stem rather than in the beginning of the key and distractors.
  6. Write all alternatives the same approximate length and format. A good test taker with very little knowledge will select the alternative that is either the shortest or the longest in length and will most likely choose the correct answer.
  7. Write alternatives that are grammatically consistent with the item stem and maintain a parallel grammatical format. For example, if the key begins with a verb ending with “ing”, then all distractors must begin with a verb ending with “ing”
  8. Use only professionally acceptable or technical terminology in the item stem and alternatives.
  9. Avoid using a key word or phrase from the item stem in the item key. Experienced exam takers will look for these types of clues to identify the key.
  10. Please don’t use “none of the above” or “all of the above”.
  11. Avoid “True/False” questions such as “Which of the following is true?”

Item Development Checklist

Before submitting an item, you must be able to answer YES to all of the following questions.

  1. Does the item test a concept of the intended paper at the appropriate level of the test exam taker?
  2. Does the item test only one concept?
  3. Is the item clear, concise, and free of unnecessary or ambiguous terms?
  4. Is there enough information in the stem to allow for only one correct answer? A candidate must not be able to interpret a distractor as correct based on assumptions due to a lack of information in the stem!
  5. Does the item have plausible distractors but only one correct answer?
  6. Does the item avoid words or phrases in the key that already appear in the stem?

Item Submission and Review Process

All items must be submitted in English. Items must include a stem, four alternatives, and rationales for the correct answer.
An initial review will be performed to ensure completeness and compliance with the item writing guidelines. Items that are judged to be flawed in any significant way will be sent back to the item writer with appropriate and constructive feedback. Items accepted at initial level will be forwarded to the editorial board to be considered for inclusion in the question bank.
Once reviewed by the editorial board, the item will be accepted or returned. If returned by the editorial board, the item will be returned to the writer, including appropriate and constructive feedback. If accepted, the item will become the property of Shuchita Prakashan (P) Ltd. and the item writer will receive the payment at the rate of ` 100 per accepted item.