Multiple Choice and Distance Learning

A school book on a table.

As teachers are faced with teaching their students from a distance, a question pops up when educators converse online: How to prevent students from cheating on multiple choice assessments.

Google Forms does have locked-mode quizzes on district managed Chromebooks. As long as a student is using a district managed Chromebook, teachers will receive a notification when they exit the locked mode quiz. Of course, a student can take the quiz in locked mode while looking up answers on their phone.

So how do teachers prevent cheating when using distance learning?

The answer is simple: they don’t. All distance learning assignments are open book – just like real life. We all have too much to worry about at this time. Teachers need to cross students cheating off that list and focus on the important things.

So how should teachers use multiple choice assessments during a period of distance learning?

Good Distance Learning Assessment

Here are some important things to think about when using multiple choice questions in distance learning:

Google Forms

Having said that, multiple choice can serve as a way to reinforce learning. A multiple choice question can make students think and apply what they learned. Or simply revisit lesson materials to find an answer. 

Google Forms Quiz Mode is great. Use it. Leave feedback for students when they answer incorrectly.

Quiz mode grades for teachers. But better than that, Google Forms can tell students they are wrong until they are right. This is because of response validation which marks the question wrong until the student types the correct answer. Students receiving instant feedback with no teacher present!

Animated GIF depicting response validation in Google Forms. The error message disappears when the correct answer is typed.
Response validation in Google Forms. Teachers can set custom error messages.

Teachers need to use short answer, not multiple choice questions, to do this. Response validation is how digital breakouts work.

When using Google Forms, there is no need for question numbers and choice letters. For example, look at this question:

23) Which political party arose to oppose President Andrew Jackson?

  1. The Democrats
  2. The Federalists
  3. The Republicans
  4. The Whigs

A distance learning student would text this message to a friend to cheat:

“23 is D.”

Now look at the question without a number and letters for the options:

Which political party arose to oppose President Andrew Jackson?

  • The Democrats
  • The Federalists
  • The Republicans
  • The Whigs

A distance learning student would text this message to a friend to cheat:

“Know that the Whigs opposed Andrew Jackson.”

Notice the difference? Without numbers and letters, cheating becomes a discussion of content. That’s what teachers want students to do!

Other Apps for Multiple Choice

Google Forms is not the only way to give students a multiple choice assessment using technology. Have a look at:

Animated GIF depicting a student drawing on a map using Formative.
The Schlieffen Plan as drawn by a student in Formative.
  • Quizlet – Convert Quizlet decks into multiple choice quizzes in Google Forms.

For more information about distance learning, please read my blog post, 10 Tips for Converting to Distance Learning.

What do you think? How are you using multiple choice questions in distance learning? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Does your school need remote professional development to keep teachers sharp during this time away from school? Have a look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo by Jeffrey Betts on Unsplash.



  1. Wise. I switched to open book long ago in the hopes that the ultimate test environment finally results in learning the content.


  2. The problem with ‘open book’ is that it takes too long. For concepts and answers they should know we don’t have time for them to google, find the best answer and then paraphrase. I am finding simple short answer tests are taking twice as long as they would have in class. Time is a limited resource


    1. Hi Brad. Thank you for your comment. It sounds like your students are being careful and deliberate with your assignments. Congratulations! If this is a time drain, I suggest reducing the number of questions, adjusting them to be less Google-able, or using creativity instead of Q&A for assessment. I wrote a blog post about quick creative assessments:


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