Writing Effective Quizzes for Lessons

Writing Effective Quizzes for Lessons

Lessons questions formats

Finding the best ways to write effective questions for quizzes and tests can help engage students and promote a better learning experience.

Developing strategic type questioning can aid in assisting students develop skills in problem solving, reflect on any reference material or readings, and promote concept formalization.

The interactive nature of taking quizzes and exams is vital for influencing an effective learning environment, especially for eLearning students.

There are a variety of different question formats an instructor or institution can create when developing a quiz for their students. Here are some of the most common question formats that are used:

  • Multiple Choice questions
  • True-False
  • Open Ended/Short Answer
  • Essay or project-based Assignment

Defining the questions format and scope

When drafting questions for a test, there are several actionable steps to take to ensure the questions are comprehensive, but also promote an expanded learning experience for the student. When an instructor begins the process of drafting an exam for their students, whether it be for an elearning course or regular class, here are some of the best ways to write effective quizzes.

The first thing any person should do is determine the overall goal of the assessment their drafting. For example, will it be a quiz test if a student read through the reading material, or will it be a more comprehensive, detailed questionnaire testing the ability to analyze the text and think on a deeper level. Once the main purpose is determined, it will help decipher the right amount of questions to ask as well as the overall format.

Multiple Choice Questions

If choosing multiple choice questions for the assessment, note the follow characteristics of these types of questions:

  • they are used primarily to check a student’s memory for facts
  • these questions can be presented to evaluate a students ability to reason and apply critical skills
  • objective scoring is used, never subjective
  • they are typically easier and less time consuming to prepare

Multiple choice questions do have certain requirements in order to be written effective. First, they must be unambiguous and concise. Second, they should always include a verb of some kind. (Example: What is the primary focus of the readings from chapter 5?) Thirdly, try to stay away from using verbatim phrases from readings or texts.

This allows for a more sophisticated question that goes beyond just recollection of information. Drafting the answers to the questions follow similar rules. The student must be able to understand the choices, there must always be a clear answer, and the questions should allows be short and to the point.

Multiple choice questions can — and should — employ multi media resources whenever possible. A music course can provide a short audio sample to be played back and require the student to identify the style or the tempo of the music heard.

A visual effects training can employ videos or images and ask students to select the most appropriate technique to employ on them in order to achieve the desired result.

True / False quizzes

True-False questions are a popular choice among instructors. Some of the main points to know about this type of question are:

  • they are typically used to identify facts, relationships between one or more things, principles, and identifying correct statements
  • can be used to stimulate reason or expanded thought, as well as simpler factual assessment
  • versatile: a quiz can be adapted to a wide variety of assessments, both simple and advanced
  • easy to produce and less time consuming than multiple choice questions

The true-false question can be formatted in different ways, and is a very effective question type for quizzes in elearning and other classroom environments.

These questions should never be written in long statements; try to stick to short and concise sentences. Also, avoid stating opinions and try not to use statements like: none, all, always, etc. These types of questions can be useful for promoting comprehensive thinking processes.

Writing open ended questions

Short answer and essay questions are probably the best for checking recollection of materials and ability to reiterate information. Some of the biggest characteristics of these questions are:

  • they are used not for just for recognition, which typically makes them higher level
  • used to tests one’s knowledge of specific or broad themes
  • evaluation of the question is usually subjective
  • usually the most time consuming type of question

These questions are usually some of the easiest to draft. They are normally used to test a student’s knowledge of broad concepts or specific details. Many times instructors will have a student write out lists of things, or steps to a process. However, to really expand the students knowledge of a subject, the question can be written more effectively to allow the student to think more constructively.

Asking a question that just wants details may just test memorization, so an instructor should attempt to draft the question to test critical thinking and overall knowledge of a subject or theme. If an instructor or institution uses some of these tips to writing effective quizzes for lessons, it may aid in better growth of the students knowledge base.

Project based Assignments

Assignments won’t be covered in this primer, as they are very specific to the lesson format and the overall course purpose. Both a 3D Graphics assignment and a creative writing essay require the student to have grasped the course teachings and to show his or her own mastery of the subject.

However, they way these tasks can be evaluated or structured varies too much to provide useful “by-the-numbers” rules.

Implementing an effective evaluation system

Most techniques discussed in this primer are in use since the dawn of education, but it was only in the early 20th century that education became so widespread to require an efficient and large scale evaluation of tests, quizzes and other evaluation devices.

Grid based system were developed first, and allowed to quickly cross reference the student’s answers against the correct answers. How answers are evaluated, however, may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the entire quiz system.

Normalized scoring

The most popular scoring system for quizzes being the one that assigns one point to each correct answer and ignores wrong answers.

Each student receives a grade that is normalized against the number of questions, but this may lead to results that do not reflect the real preparation. A student answering randomly to the questions, will on average gain a 50% score.

Adjusted normalized scoring

Another option is to assign one point for each correct answer and to subtract one point for each wrong answer. This adjusted normalization is the simplest way to cancel out noise due to random answers. Despite its simplicity it can work well.

For multiple choice questions, the amount subtracted from the overall score for each wrong answer should be the reciprocal of the multiple choices minus one. E.g. if the format calls for four answers to each question, one third of point should be subtracted from the final score for each wrong answer.

Weighted scoring

In this case, each answer is weighted against its difficult level. This format requires a deep understanding of the course taught and of the target student. Attributing a larger reward to correct answers may increase the advantage for random answers, especially in true/false quizzes and is therefore only suitable for multiple choice questions.

Weighted scoring may work extremely well to assess each student strengths and weaknesses and may be used as an additional metric instead of producing the final score.

For example, on a fifty questions midterm test in visual effects or 3D animation, the goal is obviously to assess the technical knowledge gained by the students, since a multiple choice question format can not be used to assess the operative and artistic skills.

By weighting the answers according the math knowledge required, a student may receive an useful and entirely automated evaluation that suggests the areas where he or she should spend more time reviewing: trigonometry, physics, laws of optics, etc.

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