Tips on Writing Assessment Questions

Assessments can be used to test knowledge in increments throughout the class (formative) and at the end of a class (summative). Here is a resource that describes the role of formative and summative questions in the context of course development: Back to the Basics on Curriculum Design, Paving the Way for Your Learners

Here is a basic timeline of a course and where outcomes and objectives are fulfilled in formative and summative questions:


Course timeline that is formative assessments that are paired with objectives and one final summative assessment that is paired with course outcomes.

Within these two categories (formative and summative), there are endless ways to write questions to measure an objective or an outcome. Formative questions are connected to the course objectives and they are a low-stakes way of assessing knowledge. For example, you present a module of course material and put knowledge checks after each sub-section to see if the learner has retained the information. This is helpful to you as an instructor to see if the learners are understanding the information you wrote and it is helpful for a learner to gauge their personal progress. The learner can also find areas of opportunity or focus throughout the class.

Examples of formative questions

  • Polling (see polling section in this website)
  • Discussion board postings
  • Voting in a synchronous online meeting
  • Answering/Writing small responses to a section of course content

Resource: Case vignettes and formative assessment ideas for your classroom.

Summative questions are linked to the course outcomes. The assessment is usually a final project or exam. It is a demonstration of the knowledge gained and the items should map back to a specific outcome listed at the beginning of the course. The summative evaluation is a demonstration of mastery and proficiency after the course material has been covered.

Examples of Summative Assessments

  • Final project
  • Final exam
  • Portfolio
  • Practical examination
  • Creative assignments
  • Peer/Self-evaluation

CME-Specific Online Course Assessment Requirements

  • Each accredited course is required to end with a graded post test which will be tied to the learner's CME certificate. You may wish to have additional assessments throughout the class, for example, in between video segments, in an interactive, or on the main course page.
  • The following examples are for how to write assessment questions for our platform; however, if you are looking for a resource to assist you with writing general quiz questions for interactives or videos, this resource offers more information: How to Write Good E-Learning Quiz Questions
  • These can be drag and drop, multiple choice, matching, or other type of quantitative questions.
  • They should include rationales for the correct answer, as well as rationales for why the other answers are not correct. The rationales should not say what the correct answer is.
  • Options should be matched in length - without having one answer that is much longer or much shorter than the rest.
  • Avoid none of the above or all of the above because options shuffle and this option could end up out of place.

Building questions in an LMS

There are numerous ways to build assessments in your online course and both Moodle and Canvas have question-building tools to help guide your process. Traditional questions, such as multiple choice, true/false, essay, fill-in-the-blank, and matching are available. Each LMS has additional question types and they are detailed in the resources below.

How to write questions in Moodle

How to write questions in Canvas


In an online class, communication is one of the most important aspects of teaching and rubrics are a great resource for boosting communication. Assessing projects and written material can be daunting and also a point of miscommunication between you and your learners. A rubric can help communicate your expectations of a course requirement and helps students understand their grade. It’s easier to communicate an evaluation online when there are clear expectations and feedback.


Grading Rubrics: Examples of Rubric Creation
Example 1 - Research Paper Rubric