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True or False: Quizzes are SO old-school...

Matthew Brew
Matthew Brew

Want to know the REAL secret to knowledge retention?

You’re probably already using tests and quizzes in your elearning programs, but do you know WHY they’re so important? A 2006 study found that students who were tested and successfully recalled or recognised information, would remember it better in the future. This ‘testing effect’ - often referred to as retrieval practice - is your secret weapon for combatting the forgetting curve and helping your employees remember training for longer.

But (and there’s always a BUT), it has to be done right to be effective. In fact there’s a negative testing effect which can have a detrimental effect on learning - for example by steering learners to remember the wrong answer instead of the right one.

Luckily, you can avoid this, and harness the positive impact of the testing effect, by writing good quiz questions.

But writing effective questions can be challenging even for experienced instructors. So what’s the secret, you ask? Here are a few pointers:

1. Provide feedback - right away

Studies have found that feedback is an essential part of the learning process, and the sooner it is delivered, the better.  Immediate feedback reinforces learners’ correct answers and redirects them when they are wrong. Feedback that’s delivered too late brings no value, and if you don’t deliver feedback at all you’re missing a valuable opportunity to engage your learners.

Elearning platforms like eduMe give you the opportunity to provide immediate feedback in quizzes as soon as learners select an answer. You can simply state if the answer is correct or incorrect, or provide learners with more detailed feedback that explains the rationale for why it’s correct or incorrect (or gives them a hint so they can uncover the correct answer for themselves).

2. Connect your quiz to the learning outcomes

The goal of the quiz is to see how well your learners have mastered the content. With that in mind, don’t try to trick them by asking about obscure facts or insignificant details. Review your course’s learning objectives when you write questions to ensure that the content you are testing is what matters most to the business and to the learners.

3. Use well-written multiple choice questions

Objectively-scored questions are invaluable in giving immediate feedback, but make sure you don’t end up in the Multiple Choice Hall of Shame with these common mistakes…

Avoid “all of the above” and “none of the above”

Learners aren’t stupid - they know these options are usually correct. If you feel the need to use ‘all of the above’, consider changing your format from multiple choice (one correct answer) to multiple response (many correct answers).

Write answer choices that are similar in length

When one answer is visibly longer or shorter than the other options, it stands out as different - and therefore the likely correct answer - without your learners even needing to read it. If you can’t avoid this entirely, try having two long and two short options.

Don’t give too many or too few options

Five or more options can be confusing (not to mention unwieldy on a mobile phone), but only having two or three options can make the quiz too easy - which also reduces the impact of the testing effect. Unless it’s a True/False quiz, of course 😉

Avoid distractors that are obviously wrong

When answer options are silly or obviously wrong, they can make your quiz feel less legitimate. You should challenge people to reflect on what they’ve learned, or they’ll feel cheated. You can always ask a subject matter expert to help you write realistic answer options.

Don’t put correct answers in the same position

As with the ‘all of the above’ example, learners quickly spot a pattern in your quiz design e.g. that option B is almost always correct. Better yet, use an authoring tool that randomises the option order - this also lets learners take the quiz more than once without remembering where the correct answers were located.

Don’t limit yourself to the standard paper-based quiz formats that have been offered for generations. A mobile-first, microlearning platform like eduMe offers new and exciting ways to present media-rich content AND boost knowledge retention through engaging quizzes. Remember, short content results in over 20% higher information retention!