Blackboard Tests and Surveys

This document explains how to create and use tests and surveys in Blackboard. To jump directly to a section, select a link!

  • Creating Tests and Surveys - Differences between tests and surveys, creating assessments, available question types, partial and extra credit, randomizing questions, using question pools, importing and exporting assessments and questions, and creating assessments with Respondus
  • Deploying and Grading - Deploying assessments, grading tests, viewing aggregated survey results
  • Best Practice: Tips for Creating Blackboard Tests - Recommendations, design tips, and information to give your students for a smoother testing experience.

Creating Tests and Surveys

About Tests, Surveys, and Pools

Blackboard offers two methods for measuring students' understanding of course material: tests and surveys. For the most part, tests and surveys are created and deployed in the same way. The main differences are that tests provide a graded assessment of a particular student's understanding, while surveys collect data anonymously from all members of the class.

Pools are sets of questions that can be added to any Test or Survey. Pools are useful for storing questions and reusing them in more than one Test or Survey, but they are an optional feature and are not required for basic test or survey creation.

Creating and Editing Tests or Surveys

Tests and Surveys can be created or "built" within a Blackboard course, or can be imported from another source. Once created, a test may be edited freely until students begin taking it, after which time certain areas of the test may be unavailable to edit. The editing screen where the test is built is called the Test or Survey "Canvas" and instructors can use the Question Settings controls to select which options they would like to have available when creating test questions, such as the ability to add metadata, adjust point values, define partial credit or extra credit responses, and add images, files, or external links to questions or answers.

Creating a test automatically generates a column in the Grade Book where results will appear, allowing instructors to evaluate student progress and provide individual feedback. Survey results also appear in the Grade Book, but instructors will only be able to see which students have completed the survey and the aggregated results. To protect respondents' anonymity, survey responses cannot be retroactively associated with the student who provided them.

Question Types and Metadata

Blackboard offers 17 different types of questions, providing instructors a broad range of ways to assess students' skills in a variety of subjects. Questions may be created from scratch or imported individually from another test, survey, or question pool, and can be presented in a fixed or randomized order.

Tests can include open-ended questions, such as Fill in the Blank, Short Answer, and Essay, as well as fixed answer questions, such as Matching, Multiple Choice, and True/False. There are also options that support mathematical equations and problem sets, marking locations on images, ordering items, expressing opinions with Likert scales, and file response.

As questions are created, metadata tags can be added to help identify or organize questions for future use. Available tag options include user-defined categories, topics, difficulty levels, and keywords.

Instructors should be aware that short answer, essay, and file response questions require manual grading. Other question types, including fill in the blank and problem sets, can be auto-graded, but may require instructor review for accuracy.

Instructors should also be aware that there are important distinctions between the multiple answer and multiple choice question types and between the short answer and fill in the blank question types. A quick review of Blackboard's question descriptions may be helpful for avoiding confusion.

Partial Credit and Extra Credit

Instructors can choose to allow partial credit for incomplete responses to certain types of questions, including all open ended questions and many closed-ended questions. The way partial credit is awarded varies based on the question type and is explained in the question type descriptions.

Any question can be marked as extra credit, regardless of question type. If this option is selected, points are added to the score if the question is answered correctly, but no points are taken away if the questions are answered incorrectly.

Randomizing Questions

Questions can be randomized by using Random Blocks or Question Sets. With Random Blocks, questions can only come from one pool and are selected based on the format of the questions, i.e. multiple choice, short answer, etc. With Question Sets, questions can be gathered from multiple sources and can be selected based on question format or metadata tags, such as category or level of difficulty. Both options allow questions to be randomly selected from a batch of questions and/or presented to test-takers in random order.

Instructors should note that Random Blocks cannot be used with surveys.

Question Pools

Question Pools are an optional feature that may be useful for instructors who test frequently or who would like to reuse questions from semester to semester. Questions from pools can be used in both tests and surveys.

Importing and Exporting Assessment Components

Instructors can import and export .zip packages containing entire tests, surveys, or question pools to move assessment items between Blackboard courses. Content developed by a third-party publisher or for another learning management system can be imported as well.

Blackboard can also import question sets created offline using a word processing or spreadsheet application as long as the uploaded file is in the correct tab-separated format.


Respondus is third-party software that mirrors the options available in Blackboard for entering questions and setting up a test or survey. Because it can save considerable time, Respondus is a particularly useful tool, especially for instructors who will be creating more than 100 questions within an individual course. Respondus facilitates the process of entering questions into Blackboard for tests, surveys, or pools by allowing instructors to import questions from a properly formatted Word file. It also allows instructors to import test banks from leading textbook publishers.

Respondus only runs on the Windows computers that meet the minimum system requirements, but instructors who use Intel-based Macintoshes can run it using a virtualized Windows installation. Once assessments have been uploaded to Blackboard, students can use any computer that is Blackboard compatible to take them.

UK provides a site license for Respondus, so Blackboard instructors and teaching assistants can download it for free from the UK download server and then follow the installation instructions to activate it with a UK serial number.

Respondus Products:

Respondus 4 Campus - a Windows-based authoring tool that makes it easy to create and manage exams for Blackboard.

Respondus StudyMate - a Windows-based authoring tool that makes it easy to create and manage interactive content for Blackboard.

Respondus Lockdown Browser - a custom browser that locks down the testing environment within Blackboard. When students use Respondus LockDown Browser, they are unable to print, copy, go to another URL, or access other applications. When an assessment is started, students are locked into it until they submit it for grading.

In the campus-wide license agreement, you can download these Respondus products from UK Download. While at the download site, click on the "Product key required" link and the product key will be sent to you via email. Before downloading, please take note of the following system requirements:

  • Operating System: Windows Vista, XP, ME, 2000, 98
  • Memory: 32 MB RAM minimum
  • Hard Disk Space: 10 MB of free hard disk space for program files
  • Monitor: 800x600 minimum (1024x768 recommended)

Deploying and Grading

Deploying Tests

After a Test or a Survey has been created, the next step is to deploy it to users. This is a two step process: adding the Test or Survey to a Content Area and then making it available. Blackboard provides a number of options to allow instructors to customize deployment of a test or survey, including settings related to test availability, due date, visibility in the grade center, test feedback, and test presentation.

New features as of Fall 2011 - The Set Timer option now includes an auto-complete feature that will save and submit an assessment automatically when time expires. Previously, students were notified of time limits and their completion times were recorded, but instructors will now be able to choose whether to allow students the option to continue working past the specified time limit.

Don't forget to review our information about Tips for Deploying Tests!

Viewing and Grading Results

Once students have taken a test, their answers will appear the Grade Center. Instructors can navigate among users and attempts, view rubrics, grade anonymously, and view test information, including each question and response. Tests can be presented for grading by student or by question, and grade adjustments can be made by changing the number of points earned on auto-graded questions, or by modifying a student's total test score directly. Instructors can provide feedback comments that will be visible to each student individually, as well as keep private notes about students' progress.

Survey results also appear in the Grade Book, but instructors will only be able to see which students have completed the survey and the aggregated results. To protect respondents' anonymity, survey responses cannot be retroactively associated with the student who provided them.

For in-depth information about grading assessments, please see our Grade Center tutorial.

Editing Deployed Tests

While we recommend that you only deploy a test when you are satisfied with all questions and point values, sometimes you may need to correct mistakes, reassign point values, add or delete questions, etc. You can make changes to Blackboard tests before or after students have taken them. Some instructors choose to edit deployed tests in order to grade a question as 'extra credit,' or to not count a previously graded question by changing the number of points to zero. Note: when even one student has submitted an attempt, you will no longer be able to add questions. However, you can still edit, delete, reorder, and change the point values of existing questions.

After any changes are made to a test, students' grades will be automatically recalculated.

Best Practice: Tips for Creating Tests

Please visit our Tips for Creating Tests page for guidelines to help create a positive test-taking experience in Blackboard for your students. Taking these steps should minimize the most common problems encountered by students while taking a test.

Please refer your students to the student guide, Tips for Taking a Blackboard Test, linked below. If a student is still having difficulty with a Blackboard Test, please refer them to the troubleshooting guide, also linked below.