The following article covers the design and use of quizzes for formative and summative assessment.
Why use quizzes to assess learning?
Quizzes are widely used in higher education still, the use of quizzes to assess student learning is often contested. A common concern is that quizzes, especially the ones based on multiple-choice questions, only assess knowledge acquisition and memory rather than higher-order cognitive skills (Refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy). However, quizzes, including the ones made up of multiple-choice questions, can in fact assess higher-order thinking skills, if well-designed and well-written.
How can quizzes be used?
A well-written quiz can be both a meaningful and engaging way of developing a formative or summative assessment task that provides valuable insight into student learning. Quizzes are good for increasing students’ confidence (Samarawickrema & Cleary, 2021), encouraging engagement and supporting feedback. If a quiz is implemented early in the term, it can also help indicate any challenging content to the unit assessor. Another benefit of using quizzes to evaluate student learning is that the grading and feedback process is automated which benefits both students and markers.
Formative vs. Summative: What's the difference?
Formative quizzes can evaluate student learning throughout a unit. In that way, these provide valuable insight to the unit assessor as well as feedback to the students about progress towards learning outcomes. These are ungraded quizzes. Summative quizzes evaluate how much someone has learned throughout a unit. These contribute to the final grade for a unit.
Quizzes are good for formative assessment because they:
- Provide the students with immediate feedback, without overloading the marker/facilitator
- Provide the facilitator with insight into student learning and the opportunity to go over challenging content a second time to promote deeper learning experiences.
- Gives the option to allow students to improve by retaking the quiz and implementing feedback.
- Allow opportunities for both self-directed and team-based learning by letting students complete the quiz individually and/or in groups.
Team based learning (RATs)
A popular approach to the use of quizzes as a formative assessment tool is the Readiness Assurance Process which involves individual and group testing (iRATs and gRATs) that encourages students to develop active learning skills and consolidate their learning with others. RATs testing has been shown to improve grades, increase student attendance, and encourage the development of active study habits (Heinicke, Zuckerman & Cravalho, 2017). The Readiness Assurance process involves;
- A Preparation activity where students are expected to engage in reading, watching, or interacting with assigned materials BEFORE class.
- An Individual Readiness Assurance Test (iRAT) is a short (5-10 question – 5 minute) quiz taken by an individual student, usually at the START of class.
- A Group Readiness Assurance Test (gRAT) is a short (5-10 question – 5 minute) quiz taken by assigned groups of students AFTER students have completed the iRAT quiz.
- A Summary that involves class discussion and an explanation of the answers (the teaching team may address student misconceptions again at a later date).
You can read more about this process in The Essential Elements of Team-Based Learning.
Quizzes are good for summative assessment because they:
- Reduce marking without compromising students’ learning
- Provide the students with constructive feedback automatically
- Provide a low-stake opportunity for students to assess any challenges before the final summative assessment
- Allow students to apply the skills and knowledge they have acquired from the self-access content
Online quizzes are commonly used for low stakes summative assessment early in the term (typically at the end of week 2). Using a quiz early provides feedback to the marker and students about how they are progressing towards the unit learning outcomes. Blackboard tests are commonly used at Southern Cross University for online quiz assessments as these can be automatically graded and provide immediate feedback to students.
Under Southern Cross University Assessment policy, online quizzes can comprise up to 30% of the weighting of a grade.
Designing a meaningful quiz
For a quiz to be meaningful it is important to explain the value of the quiz to students. This is particularly important to motivate adult learners (Youde, 2018).
You can ensure students understand the value of quizzes by;
- Providing clear instructions
- Signposting how the quiz links to learning outcomes and the unit content (e.g. provides an opportunity for revision and consolidation or the application of ideas to new contexts)
- Explain the relationship of the quiz to other assessment tasks
- Writing clear questions (avoid the overuse of binary questions (true/false), questions with obvious distractors or confusing language such as double negatives)
- Address the different cognitive levels of critical thinking, knowledge and understanding.
Types of Quizzes
The most commonly used quiz type is a multiple-choice quiz comprised of questions and four answer options (A, B, C and D). However, there is a broad range of potential question types that can be included in quizzes used to evaluate student learning. These include fill in the blanks, drag and drop, matching, true/false, short answer etc.
The question types listed below are common to both Blackboard Tests and Zoom Quizzes. Examples have been provided to illustrates the types of questions you are able to create.
to allow for a single correct answer to a question.
The best way to simplify the Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR) pedagogical model is:
to allow for more than one correct answer to a question.
Using this question type and only having one correct answer will create confusion for students. If there is only one possible answer, choose question type 1: Single Choice.
Which months of the year do not have 31 days?
to match multiple "Prompts" (up to nine) on the left with multiple "Answers" on the right, where more than one Prompt can be matched with the same Answer.
Best practice for disambiguation would require more Answers than Prompts.
Match three of the following "Essential Skills for Classroom Management" as suggested by EQ:
A. Establishing expectations
1. Telling students what to do
to match each individual "Row" to a single corresponding correct "Column". The scale allows a range of two to seven columns.
For each Row item, only one column can be correct.
Where do the following media outlets generally sit on the political spectrum?
Short/Long Answer or Essay
to elicit a written text response, usually between 1 and 200 characters.
It is not possible to "set a correct answer" for this type of question.
To what extent do you agree or disagree with "X"? What are the problems associated with "X", and what are some possible solutions?
Fill in the blank
to elicit a single (or multiple) response(s) from participants to a cloze activity, i.e. gap fill.
(case sensitive correct answers)
Case sensitive answers require correct usage of capital and lowercase letters.
Keys can have only one correct answer, so be sure to use "blanks" where only one possible answer can be given.
<blank 1> is the name of the planet that is closest <blank 2> the Sun.
Rating scale/ opinion Scale/Likert
to rate or rank on a scale (minimum "0", maximum "10") with labels for the spectrum ends of both "Low score" and "High score", in accordance with the spectrum.
It is not possible to "set a correct answer" for this type of question.
To what extent do you feel the US federal election impacted politics in Australia, with 1 being "not much" and 5 being "a lot"?
Technology tools for Quizzes
There are a variety of different technology tools that can be used to create quizzes. The supported technology tools available for creating quizzes are Blackboard Tests, Zoom Quizzes and Polls, Collaborate Polls and H5P Quizzes. Whilst other tools may be available, you will need to manage these on your own. Before you attempt to use the tool in your unit, ensure that you are familiar with the process of using that tool, and have a backup plan in case things don't work out. See the table below for a more detailed overview of the supported technology tools for quizzes:
|Technology Tool||Most useful for...||Features||Support Resource|
|Blackboard Test||Summative assessment automatically graded||Blackboard tests (quizzes) for summative assessment|
|H5P Quiz||Asynchronous formative assessment with immediate feedback (e.g. iRATs)||Create and edit H5Ps|
|Zoom Quiz||Formative assessment in an online class (e.g. iRATS)||How to Host a Zoom Quiz|
|Collaborate Poll||Formative assessment in an online class (e.g. iRATS)||Blackboard Help: Polls|
Writing quizzes with technology tools
When designing a quiz using a technology tool (such as a Blackboard or H5P test), it is a good idea to write and organize questions in a Word document first. Doing this eliminates the risk of losing progress due to internet disconnection. It also enables you to easily rewrite and/or reorganize your questions. In this way, you will quickly be able to distinguish any overcomplicated or repetitive questions. It will also give you an overview of different question types and will make it easier to discern whether you need to substitute/rewrite some of your questions to encourage different cognitive processes.
More resources on quizzes
The following articles provide more information on how to write effective quizzes.
- Writing quiz questions that assess student understanding and critical thinking
- How to write constructive feedback for quiz questions
- Blackboard tests (quizzes) for summative assessment
Ashford-Rowe, K., Herrington, J., & Brown, C. (2014). Establishing the critical elements that determine authentic assessment. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(2), 205–222. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2013.819566
Heinicke, M. R., Zuckerman, C. K., & Cravalho, D. A. (2017). An evaluation of readiness assessment tests in a college classroom: Exam performance, attendance, and participation. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, 17(2), 129-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bar0000073
Samarawickrema, G., & Cleary, K. (2021). Block mode study: Opportunities and challenges for a new generation of learners in an Australian university. Student Success, 12(1), 13–23. https://doi.org/10.5204/ssj.1579
Villarroel, V., Bloxham, S., Bruna, D., Bruna, C., & Herrera-Seda, C. (2018). Authentic assessment: Creating a blueprint for course design. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 43(5), 840–854. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2017.1412396
QLT Assessment Leaders (n.d).