A student works on a problem with his calculator out
Quizzes and exams serve as key formative and summative assessments that can focus and motivate students’ learning as well as provide critical feedback to the instructor. Periodic testing enhances students’ ability to recall and retain information, as well as infer, analyze, evaluate, and apply the information in different contexts. For instructors, quizzes and exams can identify gaps in individual or group comprehension and retention. Quizzes can be graded, used as practice for exams, or help students gauge their understanding of course topics and practices. Below are some ideas and resources on how to execute quizzes and exams in face-to-face, online, and hybrid courses across disciplines.


  • Decide whether your quiz will be a formal assessment or an informal assessment. Broadly defined, formal assessments are typically high-risk assessments, worth a significant portion of a student’s grade. Informal assessments, on the other hand, are typically low-risk and frequently ungraded, offering a student the opportunity for self-assessment. Consider which of these forms of assessment might be appropriate for the concept you’re teaching.
  • Make sure students understand what you mean by “exam,” “quiz,” or “test.” While these terms often get used interchangeably, examination experts Jacobs and Chase (1992) distinguish among these terms based on the scope of content covered and their importance in students’ final grade for the course. An examination is the most comprehensive form of testing, typically occurring at the end of the term as a final, and once or twice during a term as midterms. Exams typically carry the most weight in determining the final grade. A test is more limited in scope, focusing on specific aspects of course material. A course might have three or four tests. A quiz is even more limited and usually is administered in fifteen minutes or less. Quiz frequency varies widely depending on the course, and can be graded or ungraded depending on preference. Make these distinctions clear for your students so that they know how high or low stakes to expect a particular task to be.
  • Vary the kinds of questions asked in each quiz. Research has shown that students’ testing preferences vary, so using a variety of testing formats such a multiple choice, fill in the blank, short essay, and so forth as well as varying styles such as exams, tests, and quizzes can help all students do their best.


  • Pacing and frequency of tests should be distributed so as to not overwhelm students. Naturally, exams are anxiety-provoking, so consider how frequently exams should be conducted and how exams should be paced throughout the quarter. Consider the consequences of how many exams you will distribute and how they will impact the students’ perceptions of their assessment in the course.
  • Clear guidance should be provided on how quizzes and exams will be weighted and scored. Offering students a rubric in advance of the quiz or exam will promote transparency in the course and will help students understand how their work will be assessed.
The students who were engaged with the material were grateful for the opportunity to ask questions and get further, more in depth explanations.Tim Weaver, Anthropology

Advantages of Online Quizzes

Quizzes and exams can be incorporated into your UC Davis Canvas course. Format options are the same as for face-to-face courses (multiple choice, fill in the blank, short and long written responses), with the added benefit of instant results for the instructor and, with formats such as multiple choice quizzes, instant grading and feedback for students as well. Please note that current UC Davis policy does not allow for online midterms or final examinations.

Advantages of asynchronous quizzes and tests in an online class

  • Flexibility for students to work according to their schedules

Advantages of synchronous testing in an online class

  • Sense of accountability from the shared temporal space
  • Immediate feedback for questions and concerns

Advantages of Hybrid Quizzes

With hybrid courses, tests and quizzes can be administered in class, online, or a mixture of both, depending on what works best for the course. Taking quizzes and exams online might be a good strategy to free up in class time for lectures, discussion, or other activities.

Advantages of asynchronous quizzes and exams in a hybrid class

  • Flexibility for students to work according to their own schedules
  • Leaves in class time for lectures, discussions, other activities

Advantages of synchronous quizzes and tests in a hybrid class

  • Sense of accountability from the shared temporal or physical space
  • Immediate feedback for questions and concerns

Advantages of Face-to-Face Quizzes

Advantages of asynchronous quizzes and exams in a f2f class

  • In person presence allows for continuous feedback

Advantages of synchronous exams and quizzes in a f2f class

  • Allows for supervision of test takers
  • Allows for continuous feedback

References & Resources

Canvas Guide to Quizzes for Instructors. Retrieved from http://guides.instructure.com/m/4152/l/189607-what-are-quizzes-for-instructors

Cushard, B. (2013). Three benefits of quizzes in e-learning. Retrieved from https://www.mindflash.com/blog/three-benefits-of-quizzes-in-e-learning/

Jacobs, L. C., and Chase, C. I. (1992). Developing and Using Tests Effectively: A Guide for Faculty. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.