Best practices for writing quiz questions & responses

The following best practice principles can guide instructors in developing well-structured and worded closed-response online quizzes.

Click each title to learn more about them.

Apply to your course: Resources & Tools 

As described in our pages Formative Assessment Online: Guide Students to Success and Create Authentic Summative Assignments Online, authentic, meaningful evaluation of students’ learning is achieved through the use of: 

  • a series of formative assessments; 
  • higher-order thinking summative assessments; 
  • a variety of types of assessments that ask students to draw upon their own lives and make real-world connections with the course content
  • collaborative or team work; and 
  • opportunities for students to demonstrate their mastery of course concepts and skills in multiple ways. 

The combination of these varied assessment practices helps maintain integrity and avoid cheating in online courses. To help reduce cheating on online exams, where it can be quite tempting and easy, you can also:

  • Use parameters:
    • Limit time for the test, the number of questions students can view at one time, etc. 
  • Use randomized questions
    • Rather than having an identical set of assessment tasks provided to all of the students, it is advisable to have a range of assessments (aka a pool of the assessment tasks) 
    • For each of the exam attendees, a random selection of the tasks could be carried out. 
    • For instance, if there is a pool of 30 exam questions and each attendee has to answer 5, the probability of half or more of the questions matching for 2 "collaborative friends" is rather low. 

The table below outlines two types of quizzes within LMS Canvas that you can utilize in your Canvas online courses.

1. Classic Quizzes


Question Type

Classic Quizzes offers four different types of quizzes:

  1. A graded quiz is the most common quiz and rewards students points based on their quiz responses
  2. A practice quiz is a learning tool to see how well users understand course material without providing a grade
  3. A graded survey rewards students with points for completing a survey but grading is not based on right or wrong answers
  4. An ungraded survey obtains opinions or other information without providing a grade

· Multiple Choice
· True/False
· Fill-in-the-Blank
· Fill-in-Multiple-Blanks
· Multiple Answers
· Multiple Drop-down (can be used for Likert scale)
· Matching
· Numerical Answer
· Formula (simple formula and single variable)
· Essay
· File Upload


2. New Quizzes


Question Type

New Quizzes offers more options for complex questions, with additional features planned for future release:

  • Moderate student attempts and review students' answers
  • Run quiz reports to view student performance, including mastery of learning outcomes

· Stimulus
· Multiple Choic
· True/False
· Fill-in-the-Blan
· Multiple Answer
· Matching
· Numerical Answer
· Formula
· Essay
· File Upload
· Categorization
· Hotspot
· Ordering


Brame, C. (2013) Writing good multiple choice test questions. Retrieved 19 Mar 2024 from

Haladyna TM, Downing SM, Rodriguez MC. (2002). A review of multiple-choice item-writing guidelines for classroom assessment. Applied Measurement in Education 15(3): 309-334. 

University of Washington Bothell. Strategies to Limit Cheating That Don't Involve Surveilling Students.

Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning. Designing Quality Multiple Choice Questions.

How to cite this page:

UMass Amherst IDEAS Team. (2024, March). Creating Effective Online Quizzes and Exams.