Is it acceptable to use the word "distraction" in the following context?

In my language, when having MCQs and there are some choices always one of them is one that try to deflect attention. In our language is it called something which translated into the word "distraction". But I'm not sure if I can use it as follow:

"In this question choice A is a distraction."

Is it common in use in such context or weird?

  • What is an "MCQ"? Commented May 1, 2018 at 16:57
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    It took me a while to figure out what MCQ means - this is not a standard abbreviation. (I guess you mean "multiple choice question"?) The usual English idiom describing what you're talking about is a red herring. Commented May 1, 2018 at 16:57
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    I think it would be a bit odd if whoever set a multiple-choice question deliberately included one or more options for the sole purpose of distracting attention from the "correct" answer. But I guess it might make sense if we assume your example text was written by someone taking the test (who at the very least must realise that choice A isn't the right answer, but for some reason he finds it more interesting to think about that one rather than think about which choice really is correct). Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:00
  • @CanadianYankee Can you give me an example how to use "red herring" in such context? Commented May 1, 2018 at 19:04
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    You'd use it exactly the same as distraction in your sentence: "In this question, choice A is a red herring." It would mean that choice A is meant to mislead you and keep you from finding the correct choice. Commented May 1, 2018 at 20:08

2 Answers 2


No, The word "distraction" is not acceptable in such context. But there are other two alternatives:

The most specific term for that purpose is:

  1. Distractor - An incorrect option in a multiple choice question. (Oxford dictionary).

The "center of teaching" of Vanderbilt university (USA) states:

A multiple choice item consists of a problem, known as the stem, and a list of suggested solutions, known as alternatives. The alternatives consist of one correct or best alternative, which is the answer, and incorrect or inferior alternatives, known as distractors.

Here is an academical article from the Imperial college of London, which checks the impact of distractors on medical students:

The use of distractors in multiple-choice questions: a medical student perspective. (Reference)

There is another term less specific but is still correct in context:

  1. Red herring- A clue or piece of information which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting. (Oxford dictionary).

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"In this question choice A is a distraction."

This does not seem to be the optimal phrasing. It sort of makes sense. If you prefer the word "distract" a better choice could be

"In this question, choice A is actually distracting you from the main point."

Other options might be:

"In this question choice A is misleading."
"In this question choice A is sort of a trick."
"In this question choice A is a red herring." (as the commenter mentioned)

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