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Creating good questions

Writing a good question can be a challenge. Thanks to the 10 design principles you have already learned how to make a good drill and what to think of when asking questions. Haven't read it yet? Have a quick look!

Now we are going a step further. What should you pay attention to when writing a question?

Brief and unambiguous formulation
First of all, make sure that the question you ask is formulated as briefly and unambiguously as possible. This ensures that the participant does not have to think about what is actually being asked. If you have added a piece of text in the question as an introduction or important information, you make sure that you formulate the question clearly afterwards. Take a look at the following example:

Elizabeth has 10 dollars. A cup of coffee in the canteen costs $2.50, a cup of tea costs $2.10.

How many cups of coffee can Elizabeth buy?

You can see here that there is a blank line between the extra information and the question. This makes it clear to the participant that there is a distinction between the two and the information from the top line can be used to answer the question from the bottom line.

If you use the placeholder it is also quickly clear to the participant that he or she has to fill in a word in the sentence. Just look at the next question:placeholder_vraag.jpg

Do you want to know how to add the fill in the blank question? Then click here.

Make sure you formulate the question as unambiguously as possible. Don't ask: How many cups of tea and cups of coffee can Elizabeth buy?

With this question you ask for 2 different pieces of information and you cannot judge whether a participant has calculated the number of cups of coffee or the number of cups of tea correctly or incorrectly.

Instead, ask the two separate questions:

How many cups of tea can Elizabeth buy?

and

How many cups of coffee can Elizabeth buy?

With these two separate questions you can judge whether the number of cups of tea or the number of cups of coffee has been calculated correctly or incorrectly. And you can link these two questions as question variants.

Only use relevant information
Make sure that you do not include information in the question, answers or feedback that is not relevant to your knowledge element.

Make sure, however, that information that is important for participants is included in the question. For example, it is possible that several answers to a question are correct. You can then choose to indicate this in the question by, for instance, saying: Attention! Multiple answers can be correct. Whether you want to make this choice depends on the level of your participants and the purpose of the question.

Ask the question positively
Make sure you ask the question in a positive way. If there is a denial in the question, it becomes difficult for a participant to determine what the correct answer is. Take a look at the next question:

What is not an example of a good customer greeting?

  • Hey.
  • Good afternoon, welcome!
  • Hi, how are you today?

You have to think carefully about what is actually being asked. In doing so, you shift the difficulty to something that has nothing to do with the element of knowledge. If you formulate the question in a positive way, the participant needs to think less about the question itself and can focus on answering the question. You can also ask the above question as follows, so that it is positive:

What are examples of a good customer greeting?

  • Hey.
  • Good afternoon, welcome!
  • Hi, how are you today?

Sometimes it is not possible to formulate a positive question. If so, make sure you emphasize the negative part, making it clear to the participant that the question has been formulated negatively. In most cases you can make a question formulated in a positive way, so this should be your first choice.

Provide good alternatives
There are a number of things to pay attention to:
  • Make sure your alternatives are possible answers. Nonsense answers only distract from the knowledge element to be learned. Do not scatter nonsensical answers with alternatives, but make sure that the alternatives you make are a wrong, but possible answer.

  • Make sure that the essential differences in the answers are clear. With this you emphasize the important parts of the right answer and make sure that the participant learns that and not the differences in the answers that do not matter with that knowledge element.

  • Make sure that your alternatives are about the same length as the correct answer. This avoids the rule of thumb that many people have learned during their school careers: the longest answer is often the right one.

  • In addition to the previous rule, make sure your alternatives and the correct answer have the same grammatical structure. This makes the correct answer less conspicuous and the participant should actually start from the content of the answer.
  • Another addition to the previous rule: Make sure the alternatives give the same amount of information. The correct answer often contains more details and words such as certain, always, or never. Avoid this and put that extra information in the feedback! For more information on using feedback, read principle 6.

Would you like personal help in developing the questions in your drill? Or have you made questions, but would you like feedback from us? Please contact us at support@drillster.com and we will be happy to help you.

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