Writing Effective Questions for Online Assessment

The webinar topic focused on writing quiz questions in eLearning modules. It was really interactive with great ideas, questions and advice being shared throughout.  I spent some time reviewing the chat log and thought I’d share some of the response to the questions I asked during the webinar.

What’s the biggest challenge you face when writing test questions?

  • Making sure people understand the question…phrasing the question properly using plain English
  • Making them challenging enough
  • Avoiding ambiguity or questions that may result in differing answers to those anticipated
  • Phrasing the question…this can take time
  • Making them interactive, meaningful and interactive
  • Making them real
  • Choosing the right type of question

What’s your ‘best practice’ for writing test questions?

  • Always relate to learning outcomes – plan the key areas to have questions
  • Put yourself in the learners shoes
  • I first trial them on colleagues who soon let me know if they’re not clear
  • Make sure that all answers in a multiple choice sound like legitimate answers not jokes or silly throw away options
  • We really like simulations. This is where the learner uses the computer to answer questions – it’s more about being able to access the information when they need to rather than recall.
  • Provide a context for the learner so that the question has meaning
  • Get a non-learning and non-SME person to look over the questions and make sure they are in plain English (where needed)
  • We provide feedback that allows learners to review the information again. Rather than simply marking them as incorrect and making them try again (this deflates our learners and makes them just guess rather than really look at the information)
  • Use positive reinforcement
  • Provide good feedback about answers – also design distractors around some of key areas/common mistakes so they become part of the learning experience

There was unanimous agreement that there was an overuse of true and false questions which can just lead to guesswork. When writing multiple choice questions, we also agreed that it was best to avoid the answer options such as ‘all of the above’ or ‘none of the above’ as these are usually the right answer.

Writing good quiz questions takes time and effort, especially if you want it to create a worthwhile learning experience.  The questions we ask need to be thought-provoking.  They need to be meaningful. Our job is not to trick the learner or persecute them, but to help them be successful at what they do.

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