4 Common Quiz Question Mistakes

Assessing the learner’s progress is a crucial aspect of ensuring that your teaching style is effective for your learners, and that the learner is putting in the time and effort to grasp the material.  How else can we provide the best feedback or certify that the learner has met certain levels of understanding?  This is why it is important to ask the right questions in the correct way.  Use these 4 tips to help you avoid common mistakes, as well as moving closer to a more successful quiz-writing process.

  1.     When the Correct Answer is Too Obvious

We’ve all seen them.  This type of quiz question is not an effective one to be able to measure the learner’s skill.  Instead, it is more a measure of how well the learner is able to pick out answers that are the most obviously “correct” ones.   One way to avoid this mistake is to realize that learners have become accustomed to the idea that the most intricately-worded answer- and therefore the longest one- is the correct answer.  Try making all of the options as in-depth as the correct answer.  This will challenge the learner to look more closely at the specific content of the answers to choose from, rather than basing their choice off of length or the number of ‘fancy’ words used.  

  1.   Is This a Trick Question?

Sometimes there is a tendency to pack too much learning into one question.  This is not an effective quizzing tool because quizzes are intended to test the learner’s knowledge about a previously-learned subject, rather than using the quiz as a teaching mechanism.  It is important to keep the learner engaged, and if the question is too wordy, this can be distracting from the content at hand.  Try to keep the question simple and direct.  This will help the learner to not become confused as easily, and more able to focus on what the question is asking, rather than the style of the question.  

  1.   Questions About the Content are Not Answered

While it is important to make sure that the learner is retaining a large portion of information from past sections, is it also important to keep in mind what has and has not been covered thus far in the course.  It can be difficult to remember that your own knowledge base, from the instructor’s point of view, is much larger than that of the learner’s knowledge base, and some information that is second hand to you, may be completely new for the learner.  Make sure you are asking questions about topics you’ve already covered.  An exception to this rule would be if you are conducting a pre and post test.  If the knowledge is crucial in the learner’s knowledge to answer the question accurately, make a note to add the topics which you did not have time to cover to the next section of your instruction  Save those questions for after you have covered the material.  

  1.   The Questions Are Too Wordy and Distracting

Make sure to keep in mind the reading level of the learner, as well as the context of the quiz.  If the quiz is for learners who have some level of higher education, using an advanced level of reading comprehension is rational here.  One way to avoid this mistake is to be consistent from one question to another.  If the first few questions were only a few sentences in length , make sure that the remaining questions of the quiz follow the same structure.  


The ultimate goal is to assess the learner’s understanding, which is going to require different techniques depending upon the classroom and the learners themselves.  By avoiding some of these quiz question mistakes, these tips will help ease the processes of writing and taking quizzes.


What experiences have you had with poorly written quiz questions? Let us know in the comments below!



Write to Done: Unmissable Articles on Writing. (2014). Do You Make These COmmon Grammar Mistakes? Take This Quiz to Find Out, Write to Done. Retrieved from:



O’Connor, R. (2015). General Knowledge Quiz: Older Generation Beats Younger at Correcting Mistakes in Columbia University Study, Independent. Retrieved from:



Academic Tips. (2015). Multiple Choice Exam Tips. Retrieved from: http://www.academictips.org/acad/multiplechoiceexamstips.html


Haley studied Northern Arizona University, where she pursued her degree in psychology. She hopes to one day be able to study human behavior in the workplace as an industrial/organizational psychologist, where she wants to improve individual performance and health, while at the same time benefiting the organization as a whole.

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