(Last Updated: February 23, 2018)

You understand that quizzes are a key player in eLearning. But do you know how to write great quiz questions that are both effective and engaging? Check out these guidelines and draw up your questions.

Tip #1: Tie Quizzes to Course Objectives

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It’s vitally important that your quiz questions are in line with learning objectives. Start your course with clear objectives about what learners will be able to do at the end of the course. Ask yourself what knowledge and skills you want your learners to acquire, and to what level they should. Once you have measurable objectives, write a few questions on each to align quizzes with course expectations.

In a nutshell, quizzes are only of use when they serve real purpose in supporting and relating back to the learning objectives. Sometimes you don’t need a quiz. If your course is just linear click-and-read to share information, a quiz is then optional. Remember not to include a quiz just because you think it’s fun, or not to write quiz questions to recall trivial details just for telling if learners was listening to the course.

Always ensure that your quiz questions are for the sake of learning and applying. So, consider performance-based quizzes that test the application of knowledge and skills rather than those factual-recall ones.

Tip #2: Mix Up Quiz Questions

Your quiz questions can come in all shapes and sizes: multiple choice, open-ended, drag-n-drop, labeling, ordering, and a bunch of others. Why don’t you gain more perspectives with different question types rather than sticking to a single option and becoming too routine? Each questioning technique benefits both the educator and the learner in its own way. For this reason, a variety of quiz questions maximizes learning opportunities and assessment techniques.

Besides, add up to success by converting traditional questions to scenario-based ones. Instead of traditional multiple choice questions that are often abstract and simply factual-recall, you can attach a scenario to introduce the choices. That way, you provide learners with context, and they’re now making a decision in place of recalling information. Thus, they turn knowledge into on-the-job action.

Also, as a note, avoid true-or-false questions as much as possible. They are easy to write, but at the same time, easy to respond as your learners have a 50/50 chance of guessing it right.

Tip #3: Keep Questions Clear and Concise

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Quiz questions should be clear and concise. Why? What if I use a little trick to see whether learners “really” understand the content. Should I? The answer is NO.

Do you want to reread a question one or several times before you can understand what to be asked? Is this a waste of time and an obvious trap of wording? Is this your learning objective? Frankly, you hate such types of questions, and so do learners. It should be the content that make your quiz questions difficult, not the wording. So, never try to trick your learners by making questions unclear. After all, quizzes are meant to measure learners’ understanding of the content, not your learners’ reading comprehension levels.

You’d better avoid:

  • Jargon or fancy vocabulary unless you’re specifically testing vocabulary knowledge.
  • Ambiguous terms and complex sentences. Rather, keep the wording common and to the point.
  • Slang and cultural references. Don’t make learners puzzling or set them apart.
  • Negative items such as “Which of the following is NOT…” unless you want to confuse learners. If you must use a negative in your question, write the negative word in ALL CAPS.

Plain language is the key to short and sweet quiz questions. In addition, it’s totally not advisable to get too detailed and wordy. Quiz questions should be as simple as possible, free of any unnecessary (but related) information. Stay away from trivia that has nothing to do with what you really want to ask. Just concentrate on the most important content only.

Tip #4: Include Well-Written Answer Options

It may be hard to write clear and concise quiz questions, but it must be harder to create effective answer options. In fact, writing answer options is a make-or-break phrase in the whole quiz-making process. As a quiz maker, you have to generate the correct answer together with incorrect-but-plausible distractors. Obviously, it’s not that simple to make wrong answers reasonable and true to life.

Well-written answer options take time, but you come equipped. Keep in mind that:

  • The position of the correct answer varies.
  • Answer options contain the same amount of detail and are mutually exclusive.
  • Answer options are grammatically parallel and more or less the same length.

And make sure you avoid:

  • Absolute terms such as “all”, “always”, “every”, “just”, “only”, “must”, “never”, “none”, and “no”. These words have no exception as they are either 100% correct or 100% wrong. As a result, give “all of the above” and “none of the above” a miss.
  • Answer options that combine two options (“a and b”) because they are potentially confusing. If there is more than one correct answer, use pick-many questions.
  • Negative items which tend to confuse learners. If you must use a negative in an option, write the negative word in ALL CAPS.

It’s also a good idea to provide consistent number of answer options for all quiz questions. Having too few options makes it easy for learners to guess the right answer, but too many options can puzzle them. So, take anything between 3 to 5 into consideration. Regarding distractors, common errors, myths, misconceptions, and ill-paraphrased content are best possible to make them plausible.

Tip #5: Reinforce Key Points with Feedback

Once you have your question, answer options, and distractors in place, go the extra mile with feedback. At a minimum, feedback tells learners if their answer was correct or not. But you can give them far more than that. Instead of simply saying “correct” and “incorrect”, consider writing meaningful and constructive feedback that explains the reasoning behind each answer option.

If the answer was incorrect, use feedback to indicate where learners went wrong. Then, they can overcome missteps and improve in the future. If the answer was correct, feedback act as a reminder that helps solidify knowledge. And in case your learners got the correct answer by guessing, feedback does add up to their knowledge. In all cases, learners have the opportunity to either learn or review the information.

To get the most out of feedback:

  • Align it with learning objectives. Use feedback to show how learners benefit from what they learn.
  • Keep it plain and brief. Don’t overload feedback with trivia and distractions.
  • Make it motivational (“That’s right! Great matching!” instead of “Congratulations, your answer is correct.”). Be careful to choose the words and tone for the feedback.
  • Provide it timely so that learners can identify what to improve as soon as possible.

Tip #6: Set Up Branching Quizzes

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Branching personalizes your eLearning by letting you determine what’s next. Each choice you make unlock new possibilities or leads to different consequences. Therefore, the content becomes unpredictable and engaging. Branching often follows a storyline and is suitable for many topics such as safety regulations, procedural rules, or ethical principles.

Aiming for behavioral change, branching quizzes allow learners to practice their knowledge and skills in a safe environment. Learners enjoy freedom to make choice and experience no actual real-life risks or consequences. As they move forward, they choose their own learning adventure and discover more by themselves. Their decision-making and problem-solving abilities are put to the test with realistic situations that are likely to happen at work.

Despite being complex and time-consuming by nature, branching quizzes are surely worth a try. Your linear and somewhat boring quizzes now turn into non-linear series of practical choices. More learner involvement, engagement, and more promising to achieve learning objectives.

Above are six handy hints on writing effective eLearning quiz questions. Do you have any thoughts and tips to share? If you do, please leave a comment!

And in the meantime, try creating a compelling quiz with ActivePresenter – a reliable all-in-one eLearning authoring tool.

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