7 Question Formats for eLearning Exams

Let’s face it, most people strongly dislike taking tests, and eLearning exams are no different. Exams are often monotonous and boring, and getting through them can be a drag. On the other hand, taking tests is a fact of life. Testing helps measure how well you’ve learned the material and is an efficient way to access the competency of an individual. One of the most common exam types is multiple choice, and there’s a reason for it – it’s a great test type to assess large groups of people (like in a classroom at a school, for example). There are other types of exams out there too, like true and false, long answer, and essays. Each test type is better for accessing particular skills. For instance, essays might be better for measuring writing skills, while long answer might be better to determine problem-solving ability.

The great thing about eLearning is that we can go beyond the traditional paper exam and be more creative and engaging with testing. By having the freedom to use visual components and getting the learner to answer questions with activity-based actions, learner benefits from a more engaging and memorable testing experience.


Sliders instruct the user to click and drag their mouse pointer to specific areas on the screen to answer a question or see more information. Sliders are interactive and great for assessing quantitative knowledge relating to a duration of events, distances, etc.

This slider exercise is from our Electrical Safety Training System (ESTS) course. The user must drag the crane truck to the minimum safe distance from the power lines.


Matching is a good way to test a learner’s understanding of terminology. Matching interactions can also be used to sort items into categories.

In this course we built for Alberta Health Services, learners’ knowledge on Emergency Response Codes is tested by instructing them to drag each example emergency description to the color of the Emergency Response Code it fits under.

Sort List

Let’s say you need to test a learner’s ability to complete tasks in a certain order. A sort list is a good way to access the learner’s ability to remember that order.

As an example, in our Trailer Safety course, learners must drag and drop the steps for hooking up a trailer into the correct order.

Dropdown Lists

Dropdown lists provide a more accessible way to complete matching or sorting tests. Each item on the screen in a dropdown list has its menu where you choose the correct option.

Hot Spots

Instead of selecting items from a list, with hot spots learners select relevant graphics from a larger scene, or parts of a larger image, in response to a question. Hot spot questions may also incorporate maps, graphs, or diagrams.

For instance, in this driving course, learners choose the parts of the vehicle that need to be checked as part of a pre-trip inspection. Selectable areas are highlighted when the learner hovers their mouse over them, as shown with the tires, but just because an area is selectable, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the correct choice.

Select One

Multiple choice and true or false questions fall into the “select one” category, as the learner is prompted to select one answer for the question. People often assume that these types of questions are only useful for accessing surface-level knowledge, and don’t really test the learner. When we decide to use multiple choice questions in our courses, we put a lot of time and effort into designing questions that test learner’s comprehension at a deeper level and their ability to apply knowledge to new problems or situations.

Here’s an example:

You’re cooking with friends and burn yourself when your forearm touches a hot oven rack. You see that the burn is a 1st degree burn a little bigger than a Canadian 25 cent coin. Three friends offer treatment for the burn. Which friend is actually helping you?

Choose the correct option.

  • The friend with a bowl of cool water [CORRECT]
  • The friend with a bucket of ice
  • The friend with a dab of butter


The friend with a bowl of cool water is offering an effective first aid treatment. The friend with the bucket of ice means well, but ice or ice water can cause more damage to burned skin. The person with the dab of butter will also make your burn worse, not better.

Even if the learner got the question wrong, it still teaches them correct and actionable ways to administer first aid.

Select Many

Multiple response questions ask learners to select all of the statements (or graphical elements) that apply to a certain situation. These types of questions can be more difficult than multiple choice questions because learners have to think through each option rather than quickly spotting the correct answer, selecting it, and ignoring all of the other options.

Multiple choice and multiple response questions don’t have to be boring, either. You can incorporate images or even add interest and relevance with a scenario, as we’ve done below:

This is an example of a multiple-response question from the Emergency Response Orientation course.


The effectiveness of exams in eLearning courses depends on the course content and how you want to measure the learner’s ability to learn that content, whether it be in problem-solving, writing skills, or knowledge retention. Course assessments take a lot of thought because the type of assessment that works best depends a lot on the course itself, the learners who take the course, and the types of skills that need to be assessed.