Moodle quiz activity icon

Topics Covered In This Article

Why use a Quiz?

The Quiz activity module allows you to design and build quizzes consisting of a large variety of question types, including multiple choice, true-false, and short answer questions. These questions are kept in the question bank and can be re-used in different quizzes. Feedback on performance is a critical part of a learning environment and assessment is one of the most important activities in education. As educators, we can’t tell what’s going on inside the heads of learners, so we need a way for them to demonstrate what they understand and what they don’t. A well-designed quiz, even a multiple-choice quiz, can give you critical information about student performance. Quizzes can also be critical tools to assist students in retrieving knowledge from their memories to help them retain what they've learned over a longer period of time and, if the feedback is rapid enough, help them gauge where gaps in their knowledge may exist that need to be filled in.

Using Quiz at Royal Roads

In this video Jane Wilson discusses how the quiz tool can be used for course assessment and self-assessment.

Quiz strategies

Using the quiz engine effectively takes some work and practice. The first thing to do is to use effective question design strategies. If you ask good questions, you’ll get useful data about your students’ performance and understanding of the material. Of course, the converse is also true. There is a ton of literature about effective assessment design available. A few of the most important ideas:

  • Tie each question to a course outcome. After all, you want to know whether your students are achieving the outcomes of the course, so why not ask them directly?
  • Try to ask multiple questions about each important idea in the class. This gives you more data points about student understanding.
  • When writing a multiple-choice question, be sure each wrong answer represents a common misconception. This will help you diagnose student thinking and eliminate easy guessing.
  • Write questions requiring your students to think at different levels. Include some recall questions, some comprehension questions and some application and analysis questions. You can determine where students are having problems in their thinking. Can they recall the material, but not apply it?
  • Test your questions. After you’ve established an initial question bank, use the system reports to determine which questions are effective, and which aren’t. As you write new questions, give them a lower point value and add a few at a time to establish their reliability.
  • Include some questions from previous units or lessons on quizzes over the duration of a course, to give students additional opportunities to practice retrieval of the earlier-learned information and solidify it in their long-term memories.

Once you’ve got a few well-written test banks, be sure to use the quiz reports and statistics to monitor your students' performance. The detailed reports and statistics available to you are valuable tools for understanding student comprehension of the material.

Creative quiz uses

With the Moodle quiz engine, it’s easier to use educationally sound assessment strategies which would be too difficult to implement with paper and pencil. Most people think of tests as an infrequent, high-stakes activity, like mid-terms and finals. Better strategies involve frequent, low-stakes assessments you and your students can use to guide their performance at any time during the course. Creating a series of small mini-tests gives you a very flexible system for gauging performance and keeping students engaged. Here are a few ideas for quick quizzes you can use as part of a larger assessment strategy.

Chapter checks

Getting students to complete reading assignments has to be one of the hardest motivational tasks in education. Reading is critical to understanding most material, and fundamental to success in many classes. The problem for most students is there is no immediate reward or punishment for procrastinating on a reading assignment. Creating a little mini-test for each reading assignment solves a number of problems. First, it encourages students to do the reading so they can do well on the quiz. Second, it gives the students feedback on how well they understood the reading assignment. Third, it gives you data about what aspects of the reading students found confusing, and which they have already mastered so you can focus your course activities.

For a reading mini-test, it is recommend ti set a limited-time quiz that students can only take once. Because it’s a low-stakes activity you want students to use for self-assessment, set-up the quiz to display feedback and correct answers. If you’re concerned about students sharing answers after they've taken the quiz, randomize the question and answer order. If you have a Question bank, make some of the questions random as well. As an additional assignment, students could write down one question about a question they got wrong, and bring it to class or post it to a forum for discussion.

Test practice

The key to effective practice is to have a realistic practice environment. Many students worry about tests, especially high-stakes tests, because they have no idea what to expect. They might worry about your question format or how detailed the test questions might be, or what they should be studying overall.

You can help alleviate test anxiety by creating a practice test students can take to help answer these questions. These tests are usually based on old questions similar to the current test questions. Use last year's final as an example test, which will force you into the practice of writing new questions every year. This is a good idea anyway, as you can be sure someone has a copy of last year’s test they are sharing with others.

To set up a practice test, create a zero point test with questions from the year before in random order with random answers. Allow students to take the test as many times as they’d like so they can test themselves as much as they need. Display feedback, but not correct answers so it presents more of a challenge.

Data gathering

As an expert, you know a lot about your field. Your challenge as an instructor is to translate your knowledge for a novice who doesn't share your conceptual structure or experience. An example or presentation you think is brilliant may leave your students completely confused. It can be hard to tell what students really understand and what’s leaving them baffled. A data-gathering quiz is similar to a chapter check, but it takes place after a class meeting or lecture. Your goal is to quickly get some feedback on student understanding of course content. What did they really understand? What do you need to spend more time on? Many instructors have trouble gauging what students find difficult, and what the students find so easy they are bored.

Setting up a post-class data-gathering quiz is similar to creating a chapter check. Set the quiz for a limited time, like a day or two before the next meeting. Allow them to take it once and display feedback and correct answers.

Quiz security and cheating

Of course, online testing also presents a chance for students to cheat the system. Most online quizzes are meant to be taken at home, or at least outside of class. Students can download the questions and print them out. They can take the tests with other students, or while reading their textbooks.

Fortunately, you can counter many of these strategies, making them more trouble than they are worth to the students. Let’s look at a few strategies for countering most cheating schemes.

Printing and sharing questions

If you display feedback and correct answers, students can print the results page and share it with their friends. Or they can simply print the questions themselves directly from the quiz. The key to discouraging this behaviour is to randomize the question order and the answer order. It makes the printouts a lot less useful. Creating larger question banks and giving tests with random subsets is also an effective strategy. If students can only print a small number of questions at a time, they will need to view the test again and again, then sort the questions to eliminate duplicates.

Using the textbook

Students will frequently look up the answer to questions in the textbook or a reading. If you are giving a chapter check quiz, then this is what you want them to do. Otherwise, you need to come up with creative ways of making the textbook less directly useful. Timed quizzes are the single most effective tool for eliminating this strategy. A timed quiz requires the students answer the questions in a certain amount of time. If you give enough questions and make the time short enough, they won’t have time to look up all the answers. Give about 30 seconds per multiple-choice question.

Asking students to apply their knowledge to a novel situation can also make a difference. Synthesis and application questions can’t be looked up. Students have to understand the material and apply it creatively to answer the questions. So while they may take the time to review the text, they will still need to try to understand what they've read to successfully answer the question.

Working with friends

If your students are on the same campus, they may get together in a lab and try to take the quiz together. This is an easy strategy to thwart with random question order, random answer order, and questions randomly pulled from a test bank. A timed quiz also makes it harder for the students to cheat if each student has a different set of questions and they only have a short amount of time to answer.

Have someone else take the test

The old adage goes “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog”, and no one knows who is actually taking the test. Students will sometimes pay classmates, or others who have taken the course in the past, to take online quizzes for them. There are two ways to counter this strategy. One, have an occasional proctored exam where students need to show ID. If they haven’t taken the quizzes or done the work until then, they will do poorly on the proctored exam. To eliminate current classmates from taking each other's quizzes, only make them available for a short time. You could require everyone take the test within a 2- or 4-hour block. If the test is properly randomized, it will be very difficult to take it more than once during the testing period. The test taker will worry about their own grade first, then about someone else's grade.

Obviously, there are many strategies students can use to cheat. While it would be naïve to assume there isn’t cheating, the vast majority of your students want to succeed on their own merits. The anonymity of the online environment may open up new avenues for the cheaters, but it’s not really much different from your face-to-face classes. A few people will go to great lengths to cheat, but most will be honest as long as it’s not too easy to get away with it. A few precautions will eliminate most of the easy cheats, and the classic strategies will work for the others.


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