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26 Aug 2019

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How to create powerful quizzes for teaching

Using frequent low-stake live quizzes is a powerful way to help students transfer knowledge into long-term memory. But how do you design a good quiz? Check these research-backed tips by learning expert Olav Schewe.

Decades of research have shown that testing students on their knowledge isn’t just a way to assess, but also a powerful way for improving learning that often yields greater benefits than spending the same amount of time on additional study. This is due to what’s called the testing effect that we discussed in one of our previous blog posts.

Providing students with live quizzes during classes is a popular way to do this that is used by teachers all around the world, from elementary school to university. But what characterizes a good quiz? In this blog post, I’ll offer 5 tips on how to create powerful quizzes.

Alternate the timing of your quiz during class

Quizzes are often used at the end of class to review key concepts and give students the opportunity to test their own knowledge. But a quiz need not only be given at the end of the class. Having a quiz midway through can be a good way to break up a session and add some variation. A quiz can even be a great way to start a session. Interestingly, research has found that quizzing students on material that they do not know yet, helps them to learn it when it’s presented later (Little, J., & Bjork, E. (2011). Pretesting with multiple-choice questions facilitates learning.) Which one should you go for? All of them! Add variation to your instruction by alternating when you hold quizzes.

Always provide feedback

Students will learn more from quizzes when they know whether they guessed correctly or not. In one experiment, for example, students scored 10-20% higher on a final test when the practice quiz offered students feedback. (For further reading, check the following article: Roediger III, H. L., & Butler, A. C. (2011) – The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention.)

Mix up questions and content

Immediately after students get a question wrong, they’ll often be attentive to content that explains why the correct answer is the right one, and why the wrong answers don’t work. So why not take advantage of this to present some clarifying content before jumping into the next question. Keep in mind, though, that students will also be eager to see the next question, so any content presented between questions should be clear and to the point.

Top tip: Kahoot! now lets you add slides between questions with simple text, images or video, as one of their Pro features. Keeping it simple is best!

Give students the right amount of time to answer

To keep students engaged throughout the quiz, it’s often wise to not leave too much time for answering the questions, and to use concise language in both questions and answer options. However, there are times when you’d want to give students extra time, for example, when solving numerical questions, or questions that require students to use logic or deductions. For such questions, you might want to provide more details, and hence use more text. For such questions, it’s also wise to make sure that students have a pen and paper at hand to support their thinking process.

Top tip: Kahoot! recently increased the maximum number of question characters to 120 and answer characters to 75. Use them wisely!

Stick with few, but good answer options

The more options you have for your multiple choice quizzes, the more time it will take to create the quiz, and the more time it’ll take for students to read through the alternatives. Having a lot of alternatives for students to consider doesn’t lead to good learning. Educational researchers therefore commonly agree that 3-5 options is the optimal number of options for multiple choice quizzes. You might think that within this range, 5 is better than 3, but it’s actually the other way around. You see, when it comes to creating answer options, quality is more important than quantity. You want to present students with a handful of relevant and plausible alternatives, making it difficult enough to force the need for students to think. Say you are quizzing your students on European Geography, posing this question:

Bern is the capital of which country?
a) Austria
b) Germany
c) Switzerland
d) Liechtenstein

All these alternatives are European countries bordering Switzerland (which is the correct one in this case) and therefore relevant and plausible. Students might know the capital of Germany and Austria, so adding Liechtenstein to the list, makes the question a little more difficult. But, say, that you instead gave the following alternatives:

a) United Kingdom
b) North Pole
c) Disneyland
d) Switzerland

Many students know that London is the capital of United Kingdom, and that the North Pole and Disneyland aren’t real countries, so here students can quickly identify the right answer without much thinking.

Top tip: of course, coming up with good questions and options can take time, but with Kahoot!, you can browse through thousands of pre-made questions from our community-powered question bank, to save lots of time!

Based on the awesome tips Olav shared, we’ve put together this template you can use to create new engaging kahoots! Duplicate it and add your own content: