Texas Tech University

For Faculty

Creating Effective Quiz and Test Questions

By Brian Ditmer, Instructional Designer

Creating effective quiz and test questions is essential for measuring learning outcomes. It can become a tough task to plan questions that will show you, and the learner appropriate mastery of the topics.

Let's start with some things to avoid. Since there is a good probability of guessing the correct answer, true/false questions should be avoided. This doesn't mean that they should be eliminated. These can be very helpful in "check your understanding" types of quizzing that students can use to verify their learning. But for formal assessment, true/false questions should play a very small role.

In multiple choice questions, avoid the "duh" question. When just one of the answers stands out from the others because they are illogical or otherwise obviously incorrect, you lose the goal—which is to assess the learning. Also make the possible answers ambiguous in terms of length. Nothing is more obvious than the longest answer option being the correct one (Rimmer).

Multiple choice questions are far less susceptible to guessing and are good for assessing basic recall to application, analysis and evaluation, their validity is good for assessing broad applications of the subject (Brame). Be sure to create a meaningful stem (query) for the questions, as demonstrated below by Vanderbilt University's Center for Teaching:

Constructing an Effective Stem

The stem should be meaningful by itself and should present a definite problem. A stem that presents a definite problem allows a focus on the learning outcome. A stem that does not present a clear problem, however, may test students' ability to draw inferences from vague descriptions rather serving as a more direct test of students' achievement of the learning outcome.


Which of the following is a true statement?

  1. Mitochondrial genomes are relatively constant in content (i.e., types of genes present).
  2. Mitochondrial genomes are relatively constant in organization.
  3. Mitochondrial genomes are relatively constant in size.
Better Stem

What characteristic is relatively constant in mitochondiral genomes across species?

  1. Content (i.e., types of genes)
  2. Organization
  3. Size

By far, essay and short answer questions are best for analyzing the understanding of concepts, connections and synthesis of a topic (Smith). Creating and supplying a rubric will give a specific direction for answer requirements for the learner. At minimum, provide explicit instructions about what and how to answer. In a course, we strive to guide learners to higher level of thinking. Essay questions and short answers are a great way to assess the use of these higher levels of thought.

These are just a few tips for creating effective assessment questions. Blackboard also provides several other question type options as well, seen below from USC's Blackboard Help page

Question Type  Description
True/False Students select the validity of a statement.
Multiple Choice Students select the single correct answer from a series of answers.
Multiple Answer Students select one or more correct answers from a series of answers.
Ordering Students are presented with a list of items to place in order according to criteria specified in the question.
Matching Students are presented with two lists of items and must pair items from one list with the other list.
Fill in the Blank Students type text or numbers to complete a statement.
Essay Students write a detailed response to a question or statement.

Contact the eLearning Instructional Design team at elearning.id@ttu.edu for more tips and help with creating effective quiz and test questions for your course.


Trina Rimmer, 6 Common Quizzing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them. Retrieved 10/25/2017 from https://community.articulate.com/articles/6-common-quizzing-mistakes-and-how-to-avoid-them

Brame, C., (2013) Writing good multiple choice test questions. Retrieved10/25/2017 from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/writing-good-multiple-choice-test-questions/

USC Blackboard Help for Faculty, retrieved 11/9/2017 from https://blackboardhelp.usc.edu/assessments/tests-and-quizzes/creating-tests/