Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Open source multiple choice bank of exam questions

A proposal to create an open source bank of multiple choice exam questionsEdit

Such a bank would

  • consist of questions that everybody sees and edits
  • reduce the cost of first-year introductory college courses

An effort to construct this bank is underway at Wikiversity:Quizbank. Students have already contributed to this bank.


An open source bank of approximately 600 multiple choice exam questions has already been created for some introductory college physics courses. Software that includes randomization and appropriate pagebreaks converts a Mediawikiwiki:Extension:Quiz into printable documents that can be distributed in a classroom. Aside from reducing the cost of those large-enrollment "101-type" courses that students face in the first two years of college, the bank would also:

  • permit autodidacts to document competency at zero cost
  • make for simple but effective writing assignments in these courses
  • ensure that students show up for a lecture or begin a project with basic facts already memorized

The software needs a lot of work and improvement. At the moment, only a person intimately familiar with the MATLAB code can create the exams. Until better software is developed, exams can be prepared and distributed to instructors. See for example, this collection of study guides for a course called "How things work":


These exams are already being used at Wright State University Lake Campus on the following courses:

After the first year of using these exams, some unexpected challenges and opportunities emerged:

  1. Since the answers are already given, students can "learn" the material without attending lectures
  2. Students like "knowing what will be on the test" (obviously)
  3. Showing physics students exactly how to solve the problems renders the initial learning curve much more gentle
  4. Advanced students do not suffer because they naturally avoid mindless memorization and know how to think and challenge every step
  5. In the conceptual "fact-based" courses, students enjoy writing test questions. Though the questions are rarely of sufficient quality to be pasted directly into the bank, they often inspire good questions. (For example, a student question on the relative mass and diameter of the Sun and Jupiter, inspired this quiz that introduces students to fractional dimensions. )
  1. The biggest challenge is that most students do not read the Wikipedia article associated with the quiz. Worse yet, students who have convinced me that they have carefully read and comprehended the article do not do as well as students who just study the practice quizzes online. Remedies to this problem include:
  1. Another challenge is that of writing test questions with the understanding that students can see them. This changes the definition of a "good" test question in ways that are not fully understood.
  2. It is important for instructors to realize that such exams are low-quality assessments that can only for a portion of the total grade assessment.

Guy vandegrift,


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  • Worried about the rising cost and debt of higher education? Help write a bank of exam questions for all to read, edit, and use