1 Low Stakes Testing: Assessment for Learning

Giulia Forsythe


Number of people involved:

Scalable to any size class as the quizzes are automated


Amount of time scheduled for the activity:

10-20 minutes for each quiz


Program/Class the plan was used for:

I have consulted on many courses that use this method. The example provided is from ECON 2P29 Sustainable Development but could be used for any university course.



Create a series of multiple choice questions directly related to content based on weekly units. Allow students to take the quiz multiple times until they are satisfied with their performance. Record the last score.


Example of activity

Unit 1: Sustainable Development Goals

Question example:

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network suggests that our first goal should be to:

  1. Ensure that everyone has access to primary health care
  2. To reduce world environmental problems
  3. To end poverty and hunger
  4. To curb climate change

The design of a multiple-choice question can be designed to enhance learning by focusing on the specific learning outcome as opposed to unnecessary language complexity. Clear information related to the specific learning outcomes facilitates storage into long-term memory. Efficacy can vary but Agarwal, Finlay, Rose, and Roediger (2017) found it most beneficial for students with lower working memory capacity.

  • The construction of the question uses a full stem question or at least segments the stem so the completion is at the end.
  • The answers all follow the same grammatical structure.
  • All answers are sustainable development goals but only one is the “first goal”.

A well-written question that addresses the learning outcomes of the unit and course guides retrieval of information which leads to greater long-term recall (Roediger, 2006).


Connections to the literature

“Taking a memory test not only assesses what one knows, but also enhances later retention, a phenomenon known as the testing effect” (Roediger, 2006). The act of remembering becomes an act of learning. Designing a multiple-choice quiz to allow for this remembering can create enduring learning.



  • Increase the question pool of similar questions to allow students to increase their practice (Butler, 2010)
  • Randomize the questions and answer responses to increase difficulty.
  • Not all questions need to be multiple-choice. Answering questions for an assignment or participating in a discussion can have the same effect
  • Grading is not necessary for the test effect to work, although it tends to reinforce that the instructor considers the activity to have value.

Other technology needed for the plan

The testing effect can be done online through the LMS or using other easy to use tools like Microsoft Forms. For longer form answers, even using the discussion forum can be an appropriate place to “test” knowledge retrieval.




Agarwal, P. K., Finley, J. R., Rose, N. S., & Roediger, H. L. (2017). Benefits from retrieval practice are greater for students with lower working memory capacity. Memory, 25(6), 764-771. doi:10.1080/09658211.2016.1220579


Butler A. (2010). Repeated testing produces superior transfer of learning relative to repeated studying. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition , v.36, p.1118.


Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). The power of testing memory: Basic research and implications for educational practice. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1(3), 181-210.


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