The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Choonkyong Kim

Second Advisor

James Robinson

Third Advisor

Shawn Jarvis

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

ESL, Reading, Multiple-choice, Test, Testing, Distractor


Teaching English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) is a multi-faceted activity for both the teacher and the students. The multiple-choice question (MC) format is a popular testing method. There is disagreement about what skills can or cannot be tested in the MC test format. The criticisms of MC testing range from guessing, to forced selection due to presented options, test-taking abilities, and others. Strong distractors will require demonstrating or applying relevant knowledge and/or skill on the part of the test taker, which ultimately contribute to the validity of the test. Test-takers could easily eliminate distractors that are not plausible. The purpose of this study is to analyze the strength of distractors in the MC questions used in various standardized tests of ESL. The tests used for this study were: 2012 California English Language Development Test - Released Questions (2012), New York State English as a Second Language Achievement Test samplers (2007 and 2013), and the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment-Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners (2008) sampler. The strength of distractors was examined within and across the following variables: test source, question type, and grade level. This study identified numerous tests that had high percentages of non-functioning distractors. There were some seemingly random correlations scattered within the results. The tests need to be assessed for distractor strength and validity through independent assessment. Further research into distractor strengths and development of distractor taxonomy is recommended.


This work would not have come to fruition without the encouragement and support of family and friends, to whom this is dedicated. For my late father, I wish you could have seen how much your love for me and education has been made manifest. His quiet love is still reassuring to this day. For my late mother, who always asked how my "studies" were going, I wish I could show you that they went fine. Her simple, gentle spirit remains to this day. For my wife, Lori, who always told me to get over it and do the work. She had confidence in me when I did not. Truly, she undergirded me. For my son, Duncan, who kept it real by telling me to relax and that I would do fine. He fortified me. For my mentor, my brother Ron, who has read everything, who was always there to work through the difficult times and give me more ideas than I could possibly use. His love re-energized me. For Bonnie Novak, "my professor", who gave me the stern counsel and sincere cheerleading I needed. She always gave me hope. To Pastor Karl Novak for his lighthearted commiseration - a friend indeed. To Dr. James Robinson for encouraging me to stay the course and enduring my constant self-doubt. To Dr. Choonkyung Kim for her guidance during the final phase of my program. To all my brothers-in-arms who gave of their time for some of my projects: Jimmy Atkins, Chad Logan Blissett, Mike Brown, Tim King, Robert Rabin, Rudy Ramirez, Mike Simpson, TeeJay Sinclair, Vic Wurtzler, and Wade Wyss. I count it privilege to have served with some of you and thank all of you for your service to our country. Your willingness to help a veteran, whom some of you did not know, is a credit to all veterans. Finally, I thank God for His love and strength during this time.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.