Testing and Assessment Tips

Tips for Authentic Testing

In addition to the tips below, please see the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) Design Assessments page, which provides suggestions for addressing common assessment challenges tailored by subject area.

For more detailed assessment guidelines, please see Pedagogical Tips for Teaching Online.

You may also want to review our 16 Tips for Testing.

Consider more frequent, low-stakes tests versus mid-term and final. Develop a series of lower-stakes quizzes and allow “drops” for students’ difficulties (with content, technology, or life issues).  For example, give five quizzes and drop the lowest one or two. Or, create a cumulative points-based system [6 quizzes worth 20 points each (120 points) with the final grade taken out of 100 points].

Assume that every quiz is essentially open-book and open-note. Find a way to make the experience of testing meaningful even when such resources are being used during the quiz. 

Recognize that no online testing scenario is 100% secure. Assume any question you ask will be recorded, photographed, and/or shared via Google docs, Course Hero, Study Blue, etc. If you have created a beloved quiz that you wish to use again in a face-to-face class, do not deploy it online. 

Create a Canvas discussion board for quiz-related FAQs. Instead of answering student questions via email, post details about test content and process in a discussion forum. .“Subscribe” to it, and ask students to do the same. This way students can ask (and have answered, by you or one another) their questions related to quiz content and process (and you do not have to answer the same email 100 times). “Lock” the discussion board before the testing block begins.


Choose the appropriate question type. Consider what types of questions best assess the knowledge and skills you intend to measure (e.g., multiple choice, short answer, essay) . Time-consuming-to-grade essays might ask students to do no more than replicate memorization (lower levels of learning taxonomy) and well-constructed multiple choice questions might encourage students to compare/contrast and argue (higher levels of learning taxonomy).

Consider Zoom or video recordings for assessing demonstrations or performances. For testing that evaluates performance (music or dance or even solving of problems or equations), ask students to record themselves on Zoom. For instance, ask students to solve complex mathematical problems and then record themselves explaining how they reached their solution. Such metacognition may even help students reach learning outcomes better than face-to-face models for testing!

“Siri-proof” your questions. Develop questions that are not easily Googled or asked of Siri/Alexa. Or, find more-round-about ways to query content in a manner that baffles search engines. Try Googling or asking Siri a few of your questions to ‘Siri’-proof your test. 

Develop question “pools” to draw from. You can create multiple banks of questions that assess each knowledge area or skill set. Then create tests using the LMS test-generator feature to pull from those pools to create different, but comparable, testing experiences. You can also create random groups of questions. Group question banks by content/skills and/or difficulty level. For example, if the learning goal is that students ‘analyze art/literature/music,’ create a quiz “group” with several items that ask a similarly challenging question of three different examples (of art/writing/music, etc.); group those questions in a “group”; and set the test generator to select one or two of the three questions to assess that learning goal.

Set a fixed quiz duration within a limited availability window — e.g., an 8-hour block of time, or less — for students to take the quiz; and set the quiz duration (amount of time students have to take the quiz) to a reasonable amount of time for the kinds of questions you are asking. For example, depending on the kinds of questions asked, 10 minutes for a 5-question multiple choice quiz allows enough time for students to think, but not so much time that “cheating” is likely.

Enhance quiz security. Modify the quiz settings to 1) disable back-tracking, 2) randomize question order, 3) allow only one question at a time, and 4) disable students’ ability to see which questions they got right or wrong.


Be available (via Zoom or email) for a large chunk of time during which students are taking the test in case of technical difficulties.

Keep an eye on the Gradebook in Canvas to track student completion and to send an e-mail warning to students who have not started the quiz as the quiz availability time begins to run out.


Review the test results. Grade the exams and consider whether some test questions were inadvertently tricky and should be eliminated or compensated for, in some way. You may even need to regrade the quiz or analyze the results using the item analysis tool.

Provide timely feedback. Allow grades to automatically populate the Gradebook so that students can see their individual performance. Send the class an email about how they did as a group, what went well, and/or what might need more work. 

Sort the grade center to track patterns in student performance. Email well-wishes to students who did well and check in with the students who might need additional support. Spot check for grade improvement and decline. 

Offer ‘audio/video’ feedback. Record a short audio/video message via Zoom to provide in-depth or overall thoughts in cases where a conversation (or screen sharing) would be easier than a lengthy written explanation. Record the message/file to your computer, and attach the file in an email to the student, or upload via the Canvas assessment/feedback screen.