Writing and facilitating quizzes

This post focuses on choosing the most useful types of quiz questions, best practice tips on writing questions and facilitating quizzes.

Woman looks at laptop screen, chewing a pencil.
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Choosing the right question type

Use multiple-choice questions to check for common misunderstandings. This will help you identify student thinking and understanding and reduce random or easy guessing. It will also help you avoid writing questions which are too easy. Remember the learner should get something from getting it right or wrong; you can help this by providing feedback.

Picture answers

Some quizzes give you the option of setting picture multiple choice answers. Don’t forget you will need to be able to provide alt text for these or they will be inaccessible for learners who use screen readers.

All of the above / none of the above

Unless it’s just for fun, or where you can prevent learners from answering until you have read out the question avoid ‘all of the above’ options. In quizzes learners will try to answer the question as quickly as possible and unless the idea is to ‘trick them’, these options will lead to a misrepresentation of what the audience actually knows. This is particularly important if you want to analyse the responses to questions later.

Drag and drop questions are often overused as activities. They are also difficult for learners with limited dexterity. If you add them to your quiz, provide text-based or keyboard-controlled alternatives.

Drag and drop questions can usually be easily guessed because the of the ‘empty space’ left within the design for the learner to drop their answer into. If you’re going to use them try making all your spaces and drop objects a uniform size.

Use true or false or other boolean-style questions sparingly. They are not a true test of knowledge when the learner can guess and still get it right 50% of the time. You will also need to be careful in how these questions are worded. They can be difficult to write without leading your learner.

Go back and check for any leading language which allows the learner to guess the right answer. Try testing it out on someone with no knowledge of the topic; if they are able to guess the answer ask what gave it away.

Short and long answer questions are a great way to truly test your learners’ understanding of a topic. However they are best used when the learner is completing the quiz independently of a workshop as learners will need time to reflect on their response.

Bear in mind how you will mark these questions. Auto marking is difficult so watch out for case-sensitive tools and make sure you provide feedback or a model answer so the learner can check how close their answer was to yours. Where you can’t check every answer, trust the learner to tell you if they think they got it right.

Best practice tips for facilitating a quiz

  • Read out the question and answers.
  • Test one concept per question and make sure there is a correct answer.
  • Be careful with time-limited questions! If you are going to use them, make sure they allow all students to finish.
  • Ensure you feedback, explaining why answers are correct or incorrect.
  • The focus of a quiz should be in helping to cement understanding or as a pre-check of what is known already.
Hand holding a sharpened pencil ready to write on a fresh pad of paper.
Hand holding a sharpened pencil ready to write on a fresh pad of paper.
Photo by Thought Catalog, on Unsplash

Best practice tips for writing questions

  • Use plain English and check to ensure metaphors, jargon, and colloquial speech have been removed.
  • Keep a similar structure for answers in multiple choice questions.
  • Avoid negative questions (‘Which of these is not…?’), and if they need to be included highlight the negative by using bold (‘not’).
  • Ensure you don’t lead the learner by giving away the answer or ‘giving an impression’ before they answer. If you’re not sure whether the question is leading, have a look at this guide.
  • For a quick guide; have a look at this checklist for quiz questions.

Sharing resources for educators, from The University of Manchester Library