Respondus 4.0: Question Randomization, Shuffling & Scrambling

Respondus 4.0: Question Randomization, Shuffling & Scrambling

Most learning management systems offer a question randomization feature for online exams. Respondus 4.0 supports these capabilities, often streamlining the setup process. Respondus also makes it possible to randomize questions in printed exams.

Question Randomization
As a starting point, be aware that learning management systems may use different terminology to describe the same thing.  If your LMS doesn’t use the term “question randomization,” look for a feature called “question shuffling” or “question scrambling.”

The basic idea of randomization is that exam questions are presented to students in a random order. This is useful in both print and online exams because it discourages students who sit in close proximity to one another from “sneaking a peak” or “collaborating” on an exam. If questions are presented to students in a different order, it is harder to cheat.

Question randomization is also useful in self-assessments, or when exams allow multiple attempts by a student. If the question order is randomized each time, the experience will feel more “fresh” to the student.

Within a learning management system, instructors can enable the question randomization feature from the assessment settings area. The steps differ for each LMS, but when it’s done in Respondus, simply go to the Settings tab, select Random Blocks (sometimes labeled “Question Sets” or “Question Sections”), and follow the onscreen instructions. In the example below, a Random Block is being created for all 50 questions in the file, which will result in all 50 questions in the assessment being displayed in random order to the students.

Respondus 4.0 Settings for Random Blocks

Note that Angel LMS users will instead use the “Scramble questions” setting; a question randomization feature is not available in eCollege.

Answer Randomization
As the name suggests, “answer randomization” applies randomization to the answer choices within a question. It’s generally used with multiple choice questions, but some learning management systems enable its use with other question types. The reasons to use answer randomization are similar to those mentioned above: it discourages students sitting in close proximity from cheating, and it offers a fresh presentation of the questions each time the assessment is taken.

Answer randomization can be applied on a question-by-question basis — that is, you select the option when the question is created on the Edit tab, as shown here.

Respondus 4.0 Randomizing Answer Choices

If you’re wondering why answer randomization is set on a question-by-question basis, it’s because some answer choices require a specific order (such as a question with “All of the above” as an answer choice).

Randomized Question Sets
A third type of randomization relates to the random selection of questions during an assessment. Here, the questions themselves are randomly selected from a larger set of questions. For example, the first question in an exam might be selected from a set of 10 questions, and the second question in an exam is selected from another set of 10 questions, and so forth.

While the terminology for random selection differs across learning management systems, the process for setting it up in Respondus is the same. In fact, the setup for random selection of questions is done using the same tool mentioned above for Question Randomization.

In the example below, questions 1 through 10 are being placed in a random block. The red highlight shows that only one of these questions will be selected during the actual delivery of the exam. Finally, the point value for this block of questions is set to 5, which means that regardless of which question is selected during the exam, it will have equal value for all students.

Respondus 4.0 Settings Random Blocks

Randomization with Printed Exams
Instructors can also use randomization techniques for exams printed from Respondus 4.0. On the Preview & Publish tab, select Print Options. The “Randomize Questions” section allows the instructor to shuffle the question order for up to 10 different versions of a printed copy of the test. You can randomize all of the questions in the exam or have the questions randomized according to question type (i.e., all the multiple choice questions are randomized within a group, all the essay questions are randomized within a second group, and so forth). See the online help for more details on this.

Respondus 4.0 Print - Randomization Options

Question and answer randomization is a powerful tool for both formative and summative assessments. It discourages cheating by presenting exam questions and answers in varying orders. For self-assessments, it keeps students engaged by presenting questions differently each time students see them. Beyond what was described above, there are other types of randomization, such as algorithmic question types that randomly vary the values in math questions. Check out the online help in Respondus for more details on this and other topics related to randomization.