Ajarn Street

Software for student tests

How to get the best from your students with on-line tests

In the past, hardware/software costs and internet accessibility somewhat restricted the use of computers and online programs in education. Now even in developing countries, most students have computers and in my university, as with many others, a notebook computer is a basic accessory (along with a smart-phone) and the university provides free wifi inside and outside the classroom. Thus, the integration of internet and computers with education and English learning is something students find normal, and classrooms without some access to educational software may seem quaint. Some students may even feel they can get more ‘professional' teaching from the numerous online ELT sites if a school is behind in IT.

However, researchers in 2005 and 2006 years found that teachers needed training in the use of software and with the making of online tests (Chapelle & Douglas, 2006; Stoynoff & Chapelle, 2005). And even as recently as 2009, Laborda and Royo found a group of teachers in Spain were not confident in running online testing in their classes. Let alone making their own tests. This attitude is poised to change as the platforms available to teachers to make and run online tests continue to improve, and I found several applications that are inexpensive and not much more complicated than any of the programs that teachers use regularly such as PowerPoint, or excel.

The software I surveyed included

1. The Multiple Choice Quiz Maker

2. QuizCreator

3. Quiz Buddy

4. Questionmark

5. Question Writer

Two of these had outstanding features: Quizz Creator and Question Writer and the rest of this essay compares the two platforms.

1. QuizCreator by Wondershare
This is a Chinese-based company that provides a downloadable program that creates Flash quizzes, with the created files being uploaded to your website. It has a wide range of question types and formats and can be published to Internet, CD-ROM, e-mail or Word. The test results are automatically e-mailed to your email address or to their Quiz Management System (for a price). The current cost is $120 for the basic version and $260 USD for the advanced license. The initial cost is cheaper for the basic version than the other leading software, Questionwriter, (although QW has a very basic introductory version) and had easier multimedia integration and the most options for publishing to different formats

Figure 1. Showing the ways that Wondershare can be published and reported. Screenshot from Wondershare, 2011

However, the technical support seemed weaker than QuestionWriter and it does not have a free online depository for tests where data and tests can be stored (The depository costs $99 /year for the cheapest version). It was these later two factors that led me to buy Questionwriter.

2. Question Writer
The sole product produced by a British company (and winner of the Brandon Hall Excellence in Learning Technology 2011) has a sophisticated platform, equal to QuizCreator, and reasonable cost at about $300 for the professional ($175 for the standard version). It even has a free version, although I found the add-ons provided n the professional version to be worth the cost.
Naturally it may be that other software are better suited to some teachers or even better all round. What I can say is that it is extremely useful for my own classes. And as many of the other test making software have similar features most of the comments on Question Writer are apply to other software.

I should note I started out with the standard, went almost immediately to the standard and after one month paid the difference for the professional.

Reasons for choosing
The main selling point in my case, over QuizCreator, was that the makers provide a website which allows registered users free uploads of the tests they make:

Question Writer Tracker is a free service from Question Writer. All users of Question Writer can register for the Question Writer Tracker service and use it to track and analyze the results for all your quizzes. By selecting to 'Send Results Via Website to E-mail' the quiz takers score and responses will, by default, be recorded and stored by the Question Writer Tracker system. You can select to turn this off if required. Question Writer Tracker also provides 100mb free web space where you can upload your quizzes with a single click.

Both software had randomization and reusability.

Figure 2. For an extra fee the question writer logo can be replaced by your own logo.

The website compiles the scores in an easily assessable way: a major timesaver. Without this software the idea of marking or making a complex 100 questions test (as I often do )- and the effort and waste involved - considering also the photocopy costs would have meant a much shorter test. However, with the randomization button, and the fact that students cannot take the test with them (the link is taken off after testing) (and even one time tokens can be used), means that it can be repeated each semester - and also easily improved and more questions added. In fact, I feel a competitive urge to make better and better tests.

1. Features
Both software platforms have randomization options which allows users to create different quizzes as the order of questions can be changed at the click of a button.

As Questionwriter allows video, sound, mp3 swf (flash files .i.e. video) one can make a self-access teaching program where students look at a range of media and then chose the answer before going to the next question. Feedback can be after each question or at the end of the program.

The current online testing software is sophisticated, relatively easy to use, liked by students, reduces cheating, gives automated marking, and motivates teachers to make better, longer, and more useful tests. One of them deserves to be in the teaching/testing arsenal of every dedicated teacher.

Robert Kirkpatrick (PHD) lectures at the Master of Education program at Shinawatra University, and is the editor-in-chief of "Language Testing in Asia" journal. You can e-mail Robert with any questions concerning this article. 

Chapelle, C. A. & Douglas, D. (2006). Assessing language through computer technology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Laborda, J. G. & Royo, T. M. (2009, March). Training senior teachers in compulsory computer based language tests. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 1(1), 141-144. Retrieved from www.sciencedirect.com

Ockey, G. J. (2007). Construct implication of including still image or video in computer-based listening test. Language Testing, 24(4), 517-537.

Quiz Software Reviews. (2011). QuizReporter: Online quiz resources and tools

Question Writer. (2011, February). In Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.

Stoynoff, S. & Chapelle, C. A. (2005). ESOL tests and testing: A resource for teachers and administrators. Alexandria, VA: TESOL Publications.


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