5 tips to develop online exams that are fair and accurate

5 tips and strategies to create effective online assessments

Assessment is an important part of the learning process as it helps enhance the quality of learning outcomes. With the increased adoption of online assessments, especially during and after the Covid-19 pandemic,  it is important to put in place practices that ease the development of effective online assessments.

This is because well-crafted online assessments positively influence the ways in which students approach problems. Online assessments also provide many benefits compared to traditional assessments. Some benefits include; improved grading accuracy, accessibility, improved feedback methods, and many others.

But, developing effective online exams with fairness is not an easy task. There are a lot of forces at play. This 2-part blog series aims to provide you with actionable tips and strategies that can help you improve your online assessments.

But, before getting into the nitty-gritty, let’s see some characteristics of high-quality online exams;

Characteristics of High-quality online assessments

Here are some characteristics to look for in good online assessments;

  • Fair, defensible, and bias-free
  • Cost-effective and practical
  • Keep track of progress (Short-term and long-term)
  • Flexible and able to scale
  • Provide a real learning experience
  • Include a scoring system that reflects a mastery and not a gross score
  • Should provide diversified question types
  • Provide good feedback mechanisms and actionable insight
  • In alignment with the involved curriculum and standards
  • Reliable and accessible to everyone


Now let’s design some effective and fair digital exams!


Use online quizzes to spot student misconceptions

Spotting knowledge gaps is an important part of assessments and online quizzes can help with this. This approach involves giving lecture videos to students before class and then testing them on the same. The answers and feedback are given immediately, preferably with some guidance.  The preferable question type for this strategy is the ‘Fill-in-the-blank’ type or MCQ. 5 attempts are given to each student and they can score full marks if they score correctly within that time. The student responses can then be analyzed, especially the first attempt, and the insights used to shape the learning experience in a good way. 

Capitalize on Adaptive Testing

The benefits of adaptive testing are too numerous to miss out on.

What is adaptive testing? Adaptive testing is the delivery of a test to an examinee using an algorithm that adapts the difficulty of the test to their ability.  It also adapts to the number of items used (no need to waste their time). 

It’s like the High Jump in Track & Field.  You start the bar in a middling-low position.  If you make it, the bar is raised.  This continues until you fail, and then it is dropped a little.  Or if you fail the first one, it can be dropped until you succeed.

Some benefits of integrating adaptive testing in your strategy include shorter tests, improved test security, individualized exam pacing, and increased motivation. For more information about adaptive testing, check out this blog post

Want to start using adaptive testing? Contact us to get started right away. 

Choose the right online assessment tools

Choosing the right online assessment software to develop and deliver exams is not something you can avoid. Not only does digital assessment software automate repetitive tasks, increase efficiency but also helps shape the learning process for better outcomes.  But, with the concentrated market of online assessment software, it can be difficult to find the right software. Choosing software that does not align with your assessment strategy can be catastrophic.  A good online assessment platform should cater to your needs in every step of the test development cycle. It should offer the best functionality and have a world-class team at your disposal.  Yet, that can’t be enough to choose software that will help you develop effective online assessments. Here is the perfect resource to help you choose the appropriate tool. 

Understand the ‘Why’ Of assessments

Having a clear definition of why you are developing an assessment is key to making them effective. John Biggs and Catherine Tang, in their constructive alignment theory, argue that assessment tasks (AT) and teaching-learning outcomes (TLA) are created to make sure that students achieve their intended learning outcomes (ITL).

Assessments should be developed based on the ILOs for particular topics. Different learning outcomes are achieved when a variety of assessment types are used. Effective online assessments have clear goals and create a learning process that ensures students have a chance to self-learn, practice, and receive actionable feedback. 


Multiple Choice Questions

Multiple-choice questions are unavoidable when it comes to online assessments. They feature all the benefits an overwhelmed teacher would wish to have in an exam, easy to deliver, easy to develop, and easy to score.  While they often face a poor reputation, they remain so common for a reason: they provide the most bang for your buck in assessment, namely contributing to reliable/valid scores without soaking too much time from teachers or students.

But, the art of developing effective MCQs is one that very few possess. To help you save some time here is how to develop effective multiple-choice questions.


  • Be strategic when developing MCQs. This is because many tutors fall into the trap of how simple it is to create MCQs, that they lose grip of the big picture. 
  • The responses should be direct. No fluff! 
  • Avoid options like ‘None of the above or ‘All of the above like the plague. Slip them into the assessment occasionally though. 
  • Make them engaging 
  • Language matters. A lot! Avoid grammatical errors or logical contradictions. 
  • Ensure consistency in both the right answers and the distractors. 
  • Stems should be direct and clear. 
  • Eliminate barriers such as sensitive issues or bias for students


The effective online assessment checklist

That is a lot of information to digest, but here is a simple checklist to help you know if you are on track to develop online assessments that are effective.

  • What defines success in your online assessments? You should have well-established performance metrics to make sure that your examinees get the best out of your entire learning journey?
  • What type of feedback system do you have? The feedback method should help both the student and the teacher get something out of the examination process.
  • How diversified are your online assessments? You should offer different question types depending on learning objectives.
  • Do you have a good online assessment tool? A good online exam tool should provide all the necessary functionality to develop good exams. Feel free to check out this blog post to understand what makes a good online assessment software. 
  • Does your strategy involve peer assessments or self-assessments?
  • Do your assessments empower and motivate students to give their best?
  • To what extent do you involve your students in the assessment process? Make sure to involve them as much as possible. 
  • Are your exams in alignment with the best psychometrics and international standards?
  • How secure and defensible are your exams? Feel free to check out this resource to understand online exam security.
  • How often do you try different assessment strategies? You should keep running tests using different approaches to see what works and what doesn’t.

Final thoughts

Did you check most of the boxes in that list? If yes, you are on your way to developing effective online assessments. If not, try implementing the strategies discussed in the blog post. 

Developing good online exams is not an easy task. It requires a lot of dedication and time. 

If you get stuck, feel free to contact us and we will help you with your entire digital assessment journey. Not only do we have a complete suite of online assessment software to help you develop and deliver effective online exams, but also have an experienced team to guide you every step of the way. 


Resources for extra reading





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