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Elearning quizzes are minefields

Elearning quizzes are minefields, to be treated with caution, careful consideration and with areas to avoid.

They don’t have a great reputation but can be a good way of assessing understanding when they’re done well, and there is strong research evidence that multiple-choice questions can foster deep learning. 

Minefield“We’ve done the questions for you already”, a recent client offered. Brilliant, I’ll just pop those into my authoring tool, and… Bob’s your uncle, I’ll get that over for review ahead of schedule. 

So, what did I receive? 


Multiple-choice questions each with four options – hmmmm, too many options, considering learners’ attention spans. Which option to leave out? Easy - the ones that were so obviously wrong I could spot them without completing the learning. 


Question 4 was a multiple-response question with 6 options to read, plus ‘all of the above’ as the correct option. If you were trying to get a course completion tick-in-the-box late on Friday afternoon, which option would you choose?  

Not only is the correct option obvious, but 7 options to read are… well, too many.  

Using ‘All of the above’ and ‘None of the above’ removes the ability to shuffle the order the options are presented. Is that a thing? Yes, it’s a thing, to help stop learners cheating by memorising and sharing the position of correct answers. We shuffle the order the questions are presented for the same reason. 


Then came a multiple-response question with 2 correct answers from 4 options. Two out of four, OK, but this format could frustrate learners who previously had to select only one option. My advice to the client – if we really can’t put all the questions in the same format, let’s make the instructions for each one clear. You’ve probably seen it – alternative coloured text, capitals or italics. Yes, I know no one reads instructions, I did say it was a minefield. So, let’s make it clear what is expected of them by stating the number of correct options.  


And what about those distractors – you know, those wrong answers – why might the correct answer jump out and not require focused reading?   

Compare your answer options.  

❓Are the distractors markedly longer or shorter than the correct option?  

❓Do only correct answers repeat words used in the question that give the game away?  

❓Are there answers that are just silly and have nothing to do with the content? 

Which ONE of the following are colours of the rainbow? 

⚫ Red 
⚫ Grey 
⚫ Square 


What about making people smile? Yes, absolutely, in the right place – know your audience and make it clever, rather than absurd.

Which ONE of the following might you see through a telescope: 

⚫ The moon 
⚫ Your eye 
⚫ Santa Claus 



Did you know? 

Have you ever noticed that online multiple-choice questions have radial buttons to signify the selection of one option, and multiple-response questions have square checkboxes to encourage selection of all that are true.  

These considerations are just about the questions themselves…  we also need to think about pass marks, quiz re-tries, congratulatory messages, feedback and visual appeal. 

So, if you’ve engaged a learning professional to create end of course assessments, at a minimum, they’ll be thinking about: 

✅ The characteristics of the learners – attention span, first language, vocabulary and reading ability 

✅ Keeping the number of options to three, four at a push 

✅ Using one question style throughout the assessment 

✅ Clear instructions 

✅ Avoiding the use of ‘All of the above’ or ‘None of the above’ 

✅ Writing distractors that are the same length as the correct answer 

✅ Using distractors that are plausible – or, occasionally, making them smile! 


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