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How to create digital tests

Did you know that you can use digital tests to provide feedback about your students’ learning? This article provides you with an introduction to how you can use digital tests to support learning objectives.

Illustration of a person who takes a digital quiz
Illustration of a person who takes a digital quiz

What are digital tests?  

A digital test comprises a group of questions that can be submitted to students more or less automatically. They can be ‘Yes/No’ questions, multiple choice questions, matching pair questions, questions that require short answers written in a free text field, or any number of different interactive questions.  Digital tests can be created both in the assessment platform Wiseflow and in Canvas. Here we want to focus on the use of digital tests in Canvas.  



How to use digital tests as part of your teaching  

  • Pre-tests. Pre-tests are small-scale tests designed to motivate students towards learning prior to a specific learning session. They will often include questions that refer to key topics that the students have encountered previously, but may also, by way of motivation, include others that will be addressed in the upcoming learning session.  
  • Post-tests. Post-tests give students the opportunity to refresh their learning of key terms and concepts. Such tests are generally given immediately after a learning session or as a mid-term test. They are sometimes also called self-tests. It may be a good idea to create such tests with the aim of providing students with an indication of where they stand in their subject, or perhaps to highlight areas where they may be encountering difficulties.   
  • Learning-while-testing. This type of test acts as an independent learning activity in which the aim is for students to engage in learning while they are actually taking the test.Such tests may include only very few questions, or perhaps just a single question, as appropriate.  
  • Tests involving feedback (Self-study tests). These tests are designed to provide students with detailed feedback on individual questions, which in turn provide opportunities for teachers to give hints or initiate learning activities, either for all students or on the basis of individual students’ answers.   


You can find out more about how to use digital tests to support learning objectives in the webinar called The formative use of digital tests in Canvas.


Click here if you require technical assistance in how to set up a test in Canvas.




Why are digital tests useful? 

Digital tests offer some very clear benefits. For example:  

  • Students experience automatic correction and immediate feedback. 
  • The assessment is totally objective.  
  • Students can obtain an indication of their progress in the subject in question. 
  • Work linked to a test can make difficult and abstract topics easier to understand. 
  • Test results can be used to determine whether or not a student is ready to progress.
  • Moreover, taking a test digitally is a proactive action that requires concentration. It also requires the student to ‘do something’, such as click, drag, select, etc.  
  • Such tests also contribute towards creating variation in other teaching situations, which in turn can motivate students towards learning.  


Tips on creating effective digital tests  

Many people think that it is difficult to devise good multiple choice questions that test students over and above their purely factual knowledge as defined in Bloom’s taxonomy. Digital tests make it easier to achieve higher taxonomic levels by making use of a variety of question types and media-rich content, and by exploiting the tool’s full functionality.   


  • Images can be used as visual markers and as such can enrich a student’s experience of taking a test.    
  • A varied assortment of question types offer an excellent approach to testing students on different levels. Questions can be formulated so as to challenge students to analyse a problem and to apply their previously acquired knowledge and skills.  
  • Digital tests also enable you to set questions with different levels of difficulty and points scores. Some questions may be more advanced than others, or may take longer to answer. This will give you the opportunity to vary the points score in the way you feel is appropriate.  
  • It is also possible to exclude certain questions at random. For example, you may devise a set of 15 questions, of which 10 are relatively easy and five relatively difficult. You may then decide to remove three of the easy questions and two of the difficult ones.  


Question bank: a smart way to reuse your tests

You can re-use entire tests or selected questions, and this may help to boost quality.  By storing questions in a large database, or ‘questions bank’, you will be able to build an increasingly content-rich and high quality collection of questions.  Canvas makes it possible for all questions to be entered directly into such banks.  As a teacher, by investing a little effort, you will be able to use this approach to create new tests very quickly, simply by selecting existing questions from the bank.  Questions banks are especially useful if they can be shared by different disciplines and across different institutions, and this can be achieved by using the Commons option in Canvas.  


By collecting questions in a larger base, one can build up better and richer collections of questions in a so-called question bank. In Canvas, all questions that are created are entered directly into such a question bank. Question banks are extra useful if they can be shared across topics and possibly institutions. Something that is possible with Commons in Canvas.

Thus, as a teacher, after a certain basic effort, you can create new tests very quickly by picking existing questions from the bank.

In addition, digital test tools often show different degrees of statistics based on the results. This allows you to effectively analyse the quality of a set of tests because some digital test tools are equipped with functionality that can calculate and display a variety of statistical data based on the test results.