How to write good e-learning quiz questions

E-learning quizzes are a great way to find out whether learners have fully digested (and understood) course material. To get a clear picture of where learners stand, you’ll need to present learners with the right questions in your quiz. Here are five tips on how to write effective e-learning quiz questions.

Tip 1: Align E-Learning Quiz Questions with Course Objectives

Your e-learning quiz questions are part of a content hierarchy: they reinforce your course material, which in turn supports your course objectives. Aligning these elements will help your learners retain key material and make your course more cohesive overall.

Write questions that focus on recall and application of material in your course. Don’t include “gotchas” or questions on material you didn’t cover in the course! Your goal is to assess how well learners master the material, not to trick them or make them look (or feel) stupid.

Tip 2: Use a Variety of Quiz Question Types

E-learning quiz questions come in all shapes and sizes: multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, open response, drag-and-drop, and many more. And each has its own assessment purpose. So don’t get locked into asking a single type of question, from a single perspective. Be open to trying other assessment techniques for learners. For example, scenario-based questions or case studies that require learners to apply what they’ve learned to realistic situations can often test learner knowledge better than traditional quiz questions.

Tip 3: Make Your Quiz Questions Clear and Concise

Save your learners the trouble of decoding wordy or circuitous questions. Your questions should be short—ideally, a single sentence. Use familiar prompts like who, what, where, when, why, and how. And always, always, use plain language, free of jargon or fancy vocabulary.

As an example, look at these two quiz questions:

Question #1: What’s the next thing a loan officer should do when you’re reviewing loan applications, when you know your client’s been working for at least five years, and you’re processing his/her loan?

Question #2: After you’ve confirmed 5+ years of employment history, what’s your next step to process your client’s loan application?

The first example is a jumbled mess! The second is simple to understand. So, be conscious of your wording, phrasing, and tenses. Direct your question to your learner, omit ancillary information, and streamline as much as possible so your learner doesn’t waste valuable time decoding questions.

Tip 4: Fine-tune Your Quiz Question Answer Set

With the right answers in place, it may be tempting to fill in the remaining choices in your answer set with answers that are easy, bogus, or downright silly. But if you do this, you’ll miss an opportunity to ask the learner to distinguish nuances. So ask an SME or other specialized resource to coach you on choices that go deeper than the surface level. Or, consider including fewer choices in your answer set: three good choices are better than five haphazard ones.

Be sure to include specific directions on how learners should answer your quiz questions. Select from a list? Choose one? Choose many? Open response? You may choose to guide learners with a combination of written directions and on-screen navigation. Whatever you decide, tell your learner specifically what to do.

Tip 5: Create Feedback for Your Quiz Questions

Feedback is the response you give to learners after they answer a quiz question—and it’s a hidden e-learning gem! Providing feedback allows for a prime teachable moment in which you can offer valuable information without distracting from the main message in your lessons.

When you write quiz question feedback, make sure it explains what the correct answer is and why. For example, if your learner answered incorrectly that stop signs are yellow, then your feedback might look like this:

That’s not quite right. Stop signs are red so people can see them better.

If your learner answered correctly, then your feedback should reinforce why the answer is correct, like this:

That’s right—stop signs are red so people can see them better.

Make your feedback short and sweet so it doesn’t bog down your quiz. Feedback should reinforce the lesson without distracting or fatiguing learners.

Remember, it’s worth the effort to write good e-learning quiz questions because you’ll end up with more accurate feedback about your learners. And when you see clearly how learners are faring with your quizzes, you’ll have better insight into whether your course material is preparing them adequately for the final assessment. If you start to see performance patterns, you’ll know it’s time to consider a tune-up on that section of your course.

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Amy Cotterill
Ari Avivi
Gordon Van Metre
Ari Avivi