Rules in Constructing True-False Tests

Binomial-choice tests are tests that have only two (2) options such as true or false, right or wrong, good or better and so on. A student who knows nothing of the content of the examination would have 50°i chance of getting the correct answer by sheer guess work. Although correction-for-guessing formulas exist, it is best that the, teacher ensures that a true-false item is able to discriminate properly between those who know and those who are just guessing. A modified true-false test can offset the effect of guessing by requiring students to explain their answer and to disregard a correct answer if the explanation is incorrect. Here are some rules of thumb in constructing true-false items.

Rule 1: Do not give a hint (inadvertently) in the body of the question.


The Philippines gained its independence in 1898 and therefore celebrated its centennial year in 2000. 

Obviously, the answer is FALSE because 100 years from 1898 is not 2000 but 1998.

Rule 2: Avoid using the words “always”, “never” “often” and other adverbs that tend to be either always true or always false.


Christmas always falls on a Sunday because it is a Sabbath day.

Statements that use the word “always” are almost always false. A test-wise student can easily guess his way through a test like these and get high scores even if he does not know anything about the test.

Rule 3: Avoid long sentences as these tend to be “true”. Keep sentences short.


Tests need to be valid, reliable and useful, although, it would require a great amount of time and effort to ensure that tests possess these test characteristics. 

Notice that the statement is true. However, we are also not sure which part of the sentence is deemed true by the student. It is just fortunate that in this case, all parts of the sentence are true and hence, the entire sentence is true. The following example illustrates what can go wrong in long sentences:


Tests need to be valid, reliable and useful since it takes very little amount of time, money and effort to construct tests with these characteristics.

The first part of the sentence is true but the second part is debatable and may, in fact, be false. Thus, a “true” response is correct and also, a “false” response is correct.

Rule 4. Avoid trick statements with some minor misleading word or spelling anomaly, misplaced phrases, etc. A wise student who does not know the subject matter may detect this strategy and thus get the answer correctly.


True or False. The Principle of our school is Mr. Albert P. Panadero.

The Principal’s name may actually be correct but since the word is misspelled and the entire sentence takes a different meaning, the answer would be false! This is an example of a tricky but utterly useless item.

Rule 5: Avoid quoting verbatim from reference materials or textbooks. This practice sends the wrong signal to the students that it is necessary to memorize the textbook word for word and thus, acquisition of higher level thinking skills is not given due importance.

Rule 6. Avoid specific determiners or give-away qualifiers. Students quickly learn that strongly worded statements are more likely to be false than true, for example, statements with “never” “no” “all” or “always.” Moderately worded statements are more likely to be true than false. Statements with “many” “often” “sometimes” “generally” ‘frequently” or “some” should be avoided.

Rule 7. With true or false questions, avoid a grossly disproportionate number of either true or false statements or even patterns in the occurrence of true and false statements.