Tips for Creating Blackboard Tests

This document provides recommendations, design tips, and information for creating Tests that will give your students a smoother testing experience. For a how-to guide on creating Blackboard Tests, please visit our Blackboard Tests and Surveys page.


Best Practice: Tips for Creating Tests

UKIT's Learning Systems Support (LSS) team recommends the following guidelines to help instructors create a positive test-taking experience in Blackboard (Bb) for their students. Taking these steps should minimize the most common problems encountered by students while taking a test.

If you have followed these tips and a student is still having difficulty with a Blackboard Test, please refer them to the following student tips and troubleshooting guide:

Recommendations for Creating the Test

Create separate sections for different question types. For example, try organizing your test into objective and subjective questions:

  • Objective questions typically take less time for students to complete and are automatically graded by Blackboard.

    • Matching
    • Multiple Answer
    • Multiple Choice
    • True/False
  • Subjective questions need to be graded by the instructor and take more time for students to complete (this may be the cause of some problems with students being kicked out of a test).
    • Essay
    • Short Answer
    • Fill in the Blank (These can be auto-graded, but need to be verified by the instructor)

Recommended Test Options

When creating a test, you will be given multiple sections with settings for your test. Listed below are some recommended settings for sections 2 and 5.

Section 2

  • Force completion - unchecked
  • Set Timer - checked and time set
    • We suggest breaking long tests into smaller sections (about 30 minutes per section)

Section 5

  • One at a Time - selected
  • Prohibit Backtracking - checked
  • Randomize Questions - checked (if desired)

Why do students get kicked out of a test?

Loss of connectivity is the primary cause.

Connecting to the University of Kentucky Blackboard system involves many different levels of connectivity. Before taking any test the students should follow the guidelines in the Before the Test section of Tips for Taking a Blackboard Test, attached below. These tips may reduce the chance of a student receiving a message saying 'submission in progress' or 'test already submitted' with no results displayed.

Design Tips for Creating Tests

LSS strongly recommends that Blackboard instructors do the following:

  • Set major project and test deadlines for 5pm (rather than midnight or other late hours) on the due date, so that if a problem occurs, the UKIT Service Desk and, if necessary, specialized Blackboard technicians, have adequate time to troubleshoot the problem. (If you make that change of due date/time, please remember that it may call for an update to your syllabus.) The UKIT Service Desk phone number is 859-218-4357. Callers who are in a testing or timed situation should alert the representative early in the call.
  • Do not use special characters like: # / * % & + - \ . etc. when naming your exam (or any other Blackboard file). These characters interfere with the Blackboard application and will cause problems.
  • Avoid copy-pasting questions or answers directly from Microsoft Word.
  • Consider using the site-licensed Respondus test creation program. Respondus is an excellent tool for the creation, modification, renaming and uploading of exams and assessments. You are also able save the original test content files on your own computer. The Respondus program can be downloaded to your computer from the download.uky.edu web site. NOTE: This program is only available for Windows computers at this time, but can be run on an Intel-based Mac using Windows virtualization software.
  • Take the exam yourself after deploying the test, but before making it available to students, to make sure it meets your expectations and that there are no mistakes in the creation.
  • DO NOT rename the exam once it is deployed.
  • DO NOT make changes to questions (other than minor textual changes) once you have deployed the exam in a content area, including:
    • Do not add or remove answers or feedback.
    • Do not change creation settings.
    • Do not change attached files.
    • You can change the number of points a question is worth, and you can add and remove questions. Once a test is taken, however, please do not add questions.
    • Changes to points possible will scale the score you gave each student. For example, if you gave a student 10/10, then changed the points possible to 5, the regrade would yield 5/5 points for that question.
  • Heed all Blackboard warnings which appear when you attempt to modify an exam after it is open to student access.
  • If you would like to modify an existing test for use in a different semester, you may want to instead create a new Test.
  • Request your students save the answer to each question as they take the exam.
  • Remind students that they must click the Submit button when the exam is complete for their exam to register as being taken.
  • Post a notice in Blackboard to remind students of their best practices when taking exams in Blackboard (below is a list you may want to copy, or modify and then post to your courses).
  • Keep test sections to 20 to 30 minutes. This is particularly important for essay questions, but can also be an issue with other types of questions if the students do not use the SAVE button.
  • Break your quiz or exam into multiple assessments based on the type of questions.
    • Objective questions (i.e., multiple choice, matching, True/False, etc.).
    • Subjective questions (i.e., short answer and essay questions).
  • Typically students complete objective questions quickly and then take more time to work on the subjective questions. In most cases, if a student is dropped from a test, it is during a subjective part of the test. If the test is designed as one whole, test answers for the answers for both the objective and subjective questions can be lost if the students have not being using the SAVE button. However, if the test is divided into two sections, it is less likely that answers to the objective questions will be lost and more likely that students will have a better chance of completing the subjective part without losing their connection to Blackboard.

  • Display one question per page. Otherwise, when a student takes several minutes to answer multiple questions before saving answers or moving on to the next page, the test may time out, causing all progress to be lost.
  • Prohibit backtracking, if desired. Selecting this option allows the student to only see the current question and not get distracted by future questions. This option is useful for instructors who are concerned that students may change past answers based on future questions.
  • Uncheck the Forced Completion option. If a student gets dropped from the test, they can immediately return to the question that was interrupted. (If the instructor forces completion, they will first have to clear the student's attempt so the student can re-enter the test.) If the students have been saving the answers as they worked through the test, the previously answered questions will not be lost.
  • In some instances, allowing multiple attempts is a good choice, especially if questions are being randomly selected for presentation from a larger pool of questions. You can allow unlimited attempts or a specific number of attempts. The Grade Center will display all attempts. You can choose to grade the student's last attempt, first attempt, highest score, lowest score, or average of scores. Additionally, an override field is included so that you can manually enter a score. You may also choose to clear (or delete) the last, first, highest, lowest, or all attempts within a specified date range. This action may be performed by item (for all students at once) or by user (for a specific user).
  • To time a test, use the setting: "If a time limit is set, the timer keeps ticking while the student is out of the test". (See the Setting a Time Limit on a Test section below for more information.)

Useful Hints for Administering Tests

  • Inform students about the article Tips for Taking a Blackboard Test, linked below.
  • Have students save each question response. This action will capture the response to each question in case the computer freezes or times out before clicking SUBMIT. In the event that the test is not submitted properly, the answers will be saved and the instructor will be able to access the student's original test with answers. Please note that if the test was not submitted properly, the grade book will show a lock; however, the instructor will still be able to view the student's responses.
  • Have the student print out (or take a screen shot) and save the submission report. The report is displayed after a student has successfully submitted the assessment. It can be used as proof of submission (in case of a technical problem).
  • To reduce last-minute technical issues, prepare a practice online test that is similar in the settings and types of questions you will use in graded tests. Create one and use in all your courses.
  • When making a test available, instructors have the option of controlling Test Feedback. If the instructor chooses all options available, each student will receive the answer to each question, marked either correct or incorrect and the correct answer if the student incorrect. While more information is useful to the student, you should realize that students could potentially pass information along to students who have not yet taken the test. The Steps to Modify Test Feedback Options section below provide a way to allow students to receive all the feedback but keep them from sharing the information inappropriately.
  • Because it is possible, even after taking precautionary steps, for students to encounter browser or network connection problems when taking online tests, always have a backup plan for students to take the test (alternative date, paper copy of the test, etc).

Setting a Time Limit on a Test

Blackboard allows you to set a timer on a test. The elapsed time will appear at the top right of the screen and a one-minute warning will also be displayed. However, setting a time limit does not restrict students from going over the allotted time. If they do, their grade will show up as a "!" in the grade book rather than a grade and you will be able to see how much time they ran over the allotted time. You will not be able to see where the student was when the time ran out or how many questions he or she answered after the fact. The assessment will need to be graded manually.

Note: Browser options need to be set appropriately in order for the test timer to be displayed.

Steps to Modify Test Feedback Options

Various options may be selected and modified, depending on how you want the test results to display for the students once they have completed the test.

  • Score: Displays only the exam score, not the individual questions and/or responses.
  • Submitted Answers: Displays all of the questions and the answers given by the student. It will display whether the answers were correct or incorrect, but will not show correct answers for any questions missed by the student.
  • Correct Answers: Displays all of the questions and answers given by the student along with the correct answer.
  • Feedback: Displays any feedback that you have supplied for each question.
    If you choose to show anything other than just the score, the students will see all of the test questions as soon as they complete the test. There is no way to prevent the copying, printing, or sharing of this information.

If you want to allow the students to see your feedback after everyone has taken the exam, you can go back into the Test Options and allow the other items to be displayed, i.e., Submitted Answers, Correct Answers, and/or Feedback. If all options are checked, students will be able to access the entire exam through View Grades by clicking on the exam score to open the exam. Note: Students will be able to print this document.

How to Modify Test Feedback Options:

  • Initially, set up the exam Score in the Test Feedback section of the exam options.
  • After the exam period ends, modify the test options and check the boxes for the type of feedback you want displayed. Click Submit to save the changes to the test options.