15 Ways to Improve Your Quiz Questions

Your eLearning course includes a quiz — that’s pretty much a given. The quiz might be at the end and serve as the primary means of assessing learners’ mastery of the course material. Alternatively, one or more quizzes sprinkled throughout the course may act as knowledge checks and provide opportunities for learners to recall and apply the material. These quizzes both reinforce learning and begin to create the kind of long-term knowledge retention that is one of the ultimate goals of training.

Regardless of the number or placement of your quizzes, though, you need to create effective questions, answer options, and feedback. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be on the way to creating quizzes that enhance and extend learning.

Good instructional design applies to your quiz questions, too

Following instructional design (ID) best practices in creating your content includes applying those principles to your quizzes. This means:

  1. Ensure that your quiz questions align with your learning objectives. This generally means writing questions that ask learners to recall and apply information that is the main focus of your course content. If the learner needs to know something to be successful, consider reinforcing that material within your quiz.
  2. Ask only about material covered in the course or section. The assessment or knowledge check is not the place for trick questions or broad tests of general knowledge. Don’t ask about things you haven’t covered.
  3. Include meaningful feedback that reinforces learning. Provide feedback whether the learner’s answer is correct or incorrect. Repeat or restate a snippet of the relevant content. This reinforces learning and builds retention.
  4. Use different types of questions. Venture beyond multiple choice and use matching exercises, ask learners to re-order items according to rank or importance or processing order; build drag-and-drop exercises — explore and fully exploit the options in your authoring tools.

Ensure questions are concise, clear, and conscious

A bunch of white arrows on a blue background circling and pointing to a single red dot.

Effective, engaging course content should be concise, clear, and conscious:


Cover what learners need to know, and save extraneous material for resources or advanced-level training


Follow plain language guidelines


Avoid assumptions that reflect biases or stereotypes

Avoid assumptions that reflect biases or stereotypes

When writing quiz questions, apply these principles as follows:

  1. Keep questions simple and short.
  2. Provide clear instructions, and let learners know whether they can choose only one response or multiple responses for each question.
  3. Use the same number of possible answers — between three and five — for each question, and ensure they are of similar length and parallel structure and format.
  4. Ensure that incorrect answers are plausible, not obviously incorrect.
  5. When writing possible responses, do not confuse learners with options that are very similar.
  6. When presenting a mini-scenario in your quizzes, use examples that reflect a diverse perspective so all learners can identify with the situations described.
  7. Avoid “negative” questions and answers, such as “Which of the following is not... “ or “ Any of the following except...” 
  8. Avoid absolutes, such as always, only, or never.
  9. Avoid all/none of the above responses and confusing responses like “both A and C.”
  10. Use simple language that avoids cultural references, slang, attempts at humor, or obscure analogies.
  11. For some topics, it’s a good idea to run the questions, as well as correct answers and incorrect options, by your subject-matter expert (SME) to ensure accuracy.

Creating effective quizzes takes some effort but, when your quizzes are well crafted and learners need to think about their answers, they will create stronger cognitive bonds with the material and retain the important information longer.

About the Author

Pamela S. Hogle

Pam is a research junkie who enjoys sharing her eLearning expertise to help you make sense of learning science and technology. She has a knack for explaining technical solutions and providing data-driven articles and white papers that you can use to improve learner experience and create eLearning that sticks.
All articles by
Pamela S. Hogle
About the Author

Jennifer Bell

Jennifer is the Team Leader for Flare Learning with a background in sales, leadership, training & development and a passion for helping clients achieve their training dreams.
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Jennifer Bell


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