Best practices: 30 tips for creating quiz questions

Assessments are critical because they allow teachers to evaluate how well students are doing in a course and they help identify key areas in a course where improvements are needed. However creating assessments in your courses isn’t always an easy task. In Moodle™ teachers often use the Quiz and Assignment activities for assessing knowledge. They may also use Forum Glossary Database Lesson and Workshop activities. In today’s post I’m providing 30 tips for writing Quiz questions.

  1. Make sure your questions are valid. They should map to the level of taxonomy set in your course objectives. This will also help avoid making questions too hard or too easy.
  2. Write assessments early in the design phase. When ready to input into Moodle™ first create all the questions in the question bank. Then create the activity and add questions from your bank.
  3. Avoid trick questions. You don’t want to confuse your students. If students are consistently missing a question then evaluate it and find out why.
  4. Use scenarios to assess higher-level objectives. This could be done in a Lesson activity or in a Multiple Choice question within a Quiz.
  5. Quizzes are a great way to assess knowledge but not all levels. Take advantage of Moodle™’s assignment activity for higher-level objectives. Use advanced grading methods for evaluation. For assignments as of right now there is no reporting function in Moodle™ to compare students’ performance at the criterion level (like you can in Quiz) but you can evaluate overall scores.
  6. Organize your questions in the question bank into meaningful categories. You might choose to categorize them by TLO (Terminal Learning Objectives) so that you group all ELOs (Enabling Learning Objectives) together. I like to organize them by topic since I typically add Quizzes for each topic.
  7. Weight your questions in the Quiz. You don’t need to match the total points to the maximum grade of the Quiz (let Moodle™ scale it for you). Instead focus on the weight of each question. I typically weight Multiple Choice questions as one point. If it is a Multiple Choice with multiple answers then I typically weight the total value as the number of correct answers. For matching I use the total number of points as the number of items that must be matched.
  8. If using question feedback provide specific reasons for why an answer is incorrect. Feedback is not typically used in pre-tests but is often used in post-tests.
  9. Set review options to control when students view various information about the Quiz attempt such as feedback. I like using deferred feedback.
  10. If allowing for multiple attempts be sure that you select the aggregation method that you wish to apply.
  11. Randomize the question order within a Quiz so that it varies based on attempt and between students. Use the random question feature in a Moodle™ Quiz so that questions are not always presented in the same order. You can do this by changing the question order setting to “Shuffled randomly.” This is a useful tactic to cut down on cheating and when allowing for multiple attempts.
  12. Randomize the order that the correct answer(s) and distracters display within a question. You may have a tendency to place correct answers in the same position. Allow the system to reorder these for you automatically. In Moodle™ you can set each question to “Shuffle” the choices so that they display in a random order for each attempt. In order for this feature to work you will also need to enable the question behavior setting for the Quiz to “Shuffled within questions."
  13. Randomize questions by using question pools. In Moodle™ this can be done by adding a certain number of random question from a given question bank category.
  14. Avoid using too many T/F questions. Make sure that you are assessing the intended level of learning.
  15. Avoid having too many items to match in both Matching and Drag and Drop questions. They can be overwhelming to students when presented with too many items at once and it can cause unnecessary scrolling which can affect usability. Instead consider dividing the question into two questions or breaking it into multiple question types.
  16. Avoid having long answers within Matching questions because that is what is placed into the drop-down menus. This can make it hard for students to read when trying to match the terms. In Moodle™ the correct answer and distracters should go into the Answer area and the matching item should go into the Question area. You might want to consider reversing the two for readability. For example if you want students to match terms to their definitions then it would be best to write the definitions in the Question area and the terms in the Answer area.
  17. Remember that Essay questions require manual grading. If you want to make use of automated grading then evaluate the question in an Assignment instead. Also use the Assignment module if the expected response will be more than a couple of paragraphs.
  18. For Multiple Choice questions with multiple correct answers make sure that you give distracters negative points so that students are penalized when selecting an incorrect response. If you do not then students could select all answers and review full credit even though they selected an incorrect response.
  19. Use Multiple Choice questions as a fill-in-the-blank question type but with choices. If you decide to do this always use a standard number of underscores for your blank. I always use five (e.g. _____). You can even have two blanks in a sentence but avoid using a blank at the beginning of the sentence. Instead have the question stem appear first.
  20. Be consistent with the formatting of your questions. You might always want to capitalize the first letter of each question option. Avoid doing this though if creating options for fill-in-the-blank questions since the options wouldn’t actually be capitalized unless at the beginning of the sentence.
  21. Instead of using colons after the question stem write a meaningful question or create a fill-in-the blank question.
  22. Avoid creating question distracters that are obviously incorrect. Well-written distracters should be plausible. This can be one of the most challenging parts of question writing.
  23. Make the length of distracters similar to that of the correct answer. The correct answer is typically longer. Keep this in mind when writing distracters.
  24. Don’t be afraid to add images into an assessment question. For example you can use them in Drag and Drop Matching questions and in a Multiple Choice questions (e.g. a chart).
  25. Beware of the use of the word “which.” Oftentimes questions are written incorrectly when making use of it. For example it is incorrect to say “Which is the best…” as it should be written “Which method is the best…”
  26. Avoid the use of the word “not” in questions. For example “Which of the following items is NOT…”
  27. Avoid using the words only never and always within questions especially in True/False statements.
  28. Avoid the use of the option “All of the above” when using randomization. Instead opt for using “All of these.” Actually avoid using either of them!
  29. If you continue to use the same phrasing in the correct answer and the distracters then pull that text into the question stem to avoid redundancy.
  30. Review reports to see how your students are scoring on your assessments. If students are performing poorly on a particular question review it to ensure that the right answer is marked in the system as the correct one review the question for validity and review your course content to improve the quality of it. In Moodle™ you can click the Attempts link within a Quiz to evaluate responses using the Grades report. You can even download the data into other formats such as a spreadsheet. You can also access this by navigating to a Quiz activity in the Navigation block and expanding it to view the Results link. Also try viewing the Responses and Statistics. I bet you didn’t know how easy it is to find out the average grade of attempts standard deviations standard errors and more!

I hope these tips help you as you design your assessment questions in your Quizzes!

Thanks for reading,




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