LMS quiz settings for exams and providing time extensions

With many academics preparing online exams in the LMS, these suggested quiz settings may be useful when setting up your exam. They have been put together by SHE academics and cover things like timing, layout and question behaviour settings.

We have also put together some suggestions as to how provide time extensions to students who are not able to log on to complete an LMS quiz that has a tight time-frame.

Training students for online exams

Because online exams are a new development for the majority of students, many of you will be offering practice exams in this format. Dan Laurence (LTLT) came across this blog post which argues that training students in taking online exams reduces cognitive load during the real thing:

The post contains a useful checklist of the types of skills that need training.

Assessing complex tasks online with MCQs

Tomasz Kowalski (Mathematics) demonstrates how he breaks down complex exam questions into smaller chunks that can be tested with multiple choice questions. He demonstrates this using a practice exam containing in-built feedback that he has prepared for his students, so that they can familiarize themselves with the online exam format.

How many question bank questions is enough? – follow-up

We’ve had quite a bit of interest in our post addressing this question from a few days ago.

Katherine Seaton (Mathematics) has pointed out that the Open University UK rule in the case of summative assessments is to have at least 5 variants of each question in the question bank.

Katherine also cited a UNE presenter in a Transforming Assessment webinar in pointing out that the number of randomized questions needs to be sufficient to disrupt undesirable behaviour, rather than make it impossible. As Katherine concludes: ‘Taken to its logical conclusion, each exam would have to be different.’

How many question bank questions is enough?

I had a conversation with statistician Amanda Shaker about this. It looks like it’s a bit of a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string question. ‘The simplest answer is, “as many as possible”,’ she says. So I asked her to calculate, if I have a multiple-choice quiz with 10 questions, and 5 random possibilities for each question, what the chances are of a given two students having at least 50% the same questions.

The answer turns out to be 3.28% (the workings are here, if you would like to apply it to your particular case). So if student A, a cheat, calls student B, a swot, there is a 3.28% chance they will have enough questions in common for A to pass (though Student B would need to be not just a swot, but also a cheat, which highlights the importance of educating students on academic integrity).

But perhaps I was being overly complicated? Amanda suggests, ‘A more helpful question might be, if a quiz has 10 questions and each question has 5 versions, then for a given pair of students, what is the “Expected Value” (average) number of questions they will have in common? This is simply 10*(1/5) = 2.’

Amanda has put all this information into a set of insightful graphs, representing different scenarios. Looking at the one above, you can see that if you have 30 questions but only 2 random possibilities for each question, there is roughly a 15% chance that our students A and B will have half the questions in common. You would need to have 4, 5 or even 6 questions in each category to reduce the chance of this happening to negligible. Click on the graph to see more scenarios, and bear in mind that these scenarios do not consider the possibility of three or more students colluding!

LTLT online exam template

LTLT has created an online exam template for the LMS. Here Mitra Jazayeri (Statistics) gives you a cook’s tour of her exam – including how to embed LaTeX symbols – which she created from the LTLT template with the help of Ed Designer Dan Laurence. Your School may already have a template available for you to import; in any case it is advisable to check in with an Ed Designer to ensure everything goes as it should.

Resources for writing online exams

Getting your online exam right is important, from the overall design, to optimizing the LMS settings, to making sure you’ve ‘ticked all the boxes’. Here we have collated a few resources to help in this process.

LTLT online exam template

LTLT has developed an online exam template which you can import into your LMS. To get an idea of what it looks like, have a look at this screengrab. If you would like to use the template, you are advised to book a consultation with an Ed Designer (scroll down to online consultations) to ensure that it is tailored correctly to your needs.

LTLT has also provided a set of online exam tips.

Moodle guides

Moodle has its own resources on setting up quizzes:

Please note that La Trobe uses version 3.5 of Moodle.

External guides

Dell Horey (Academic Coordinator Coursework) and Dan Laurence (LTLT) have suggested some external sites which contain useful advice on setting up online exams:


Feel free to post questions in the comments box (viewable after clicking on the title of this post), and we will do our best to answer them!