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Weekly Quizzes

A RATIONALE FOR REPLACING HIGH STAKES EXAMS WITH MULTIPLE-ATTEMPT LOW-STAKES QUIZZES credit: Natalie Parker, Director of CETL and Distance Education, Texas Wesleyan University

Why It Works: The “testing effect” Eric Christensen, an award-winning physics and astronomy professor who spoke to Texas Wesleyan University faculty in Spring 2016, discussed a number of strategies he uses in online classes to help students learn more deeply. One of his strategies is to provide a randomized quiz that covers information in the current chapter. The quiz is available for the duration of the week, and students may take the quiz as many times as they wish. 

Recommended quiz settings include:  

  • Pulling quiz questions from a pool to discourage students from memorizing the answer pattern  
  • Randomizing question order and answer order  
  • Applying a time limit to the quiz that precludes students from looking up most of the answers before the time runs out (the quizzes are open book, but the time limit forces students to be familiar with the material)  
  • Leaving the quiz open to students for a finite period of time (48 hours, one week, the duration of the unit)  
  • An unlimited number of attempts on the quiz  You can choose to record grades or to provide the quizzes as ungraded supplemental materials.

Results of Taking Repeatable Online Quizzes 

Using quizzes as formative assessment can have positive effects on student achievement.

For example, in Jonathan Kibble's research, published in 2011, 88% of students took the quizzes; those students scored an average of 13% higher on summative exams than students who did not take the quizzes. Likewise, students who opted not to take the quizzes tended to perform poorly.

A Second Study After conducting initial research to investigate the association between taking the quizzes and scores on summative exams, Kibble (2011) arranged a second study to determine if students could be persuaded to take online quizzes without a grade incentive. The strategy that produced the best results includes the following steps: 

  • Orientation lecture: Explain the "nature and purpose of formative assessment" Not sure what these results are: 1) more students took the quizzes, or that the exam scores were better for those student who took the quizzes and share "historical data correlating quiz scores with examination scores and also emphasizing that non-participation in quizzes may be linked to poor outcomes" (p. 95) 
  • Regular in-class reminders (or online announcements) to take the quizzes (p. 95)  
  • Online or in-class discussion about quiz questions "to improve feedback and to keep the quizzes visible" (p. 95)


Khanna, M. (2015). Ungraded Pop Quizzes: Test-Enhance Learning Without All the Anxiety. Teaching of Psychology. 42(2): pp. 174- 178. Kibble, J. (2011). Voluntary Participation in Online Formative Quizzes is a Sensitive Predictor of Student Success. Advances in Physiology Education. 35(1): pp. 95-96.

Final Exams in Remote Courses, Emory University, 2020,

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