Diagnostic Questions Online

Within Glow, Microsoft Forms and Google Forms allow practitioners to create quizzes for learners.  This learning path will look at how to create effective questions for learners.

Other online quizzing tools are available for practitioners to use, subject to Local Authority permissions in relation to GDPR.

Multiple choice questions have a stem, one correct answer and plausible distractors.  Well designed questions and distractors allow practitioners to identify any misconceptions a learner may have about a particular area.


In Computing Science, learners need to be able to convert binary numbers into decimal numbers and vice versa.  Based on practitioner experience of how learners answer these types of questions, multiple choice questions can be created with plausible distractors that can help identify where a learner has misunderstood the concept.

In this case, common misunderstandings include putting the order or binary place values the wrong way around or using the wrong place values.  

The correct order of place values is shown here

Place Value

8 4 2


If the question is “convert the binary number 1100 to decimal” the correct answer would be 12 as there is (1 x 8) + (1 X 4) + 0 + 0

Possible misconception 1 – reversal of place values

Learners may however, write the place values in the reverse order eg

Place Value


2 4


When learners do this, they offer the answer of 3 as (1 x 1) + (1 x 2) + 0 + 0

Possible misconception 2 – incorrect place value

Another possible answer that may be offered could be 10 as learners sometimes replace the 8 with a 6 in the place value order

Place Value


4 2


in this case, learners produce the answer 10 because (1 x 6) + (1 x 4) + 0 + 0

We can use this to create a multiple choice question, with plausible distractors and provide learners with appropriate feedback.  It also allows educators to identify common misconceptions that can be targeted next time.  


Good diagnostic questions focus on a single skill and are unambiguous.  You should be able to understand how the learner has come the conclusion without the need for the leaner to explain.  It takes time to develop these questions so working with peers can be beneficial.

Try this…

  1. In an area of the curriculum, work with colleagues to identify common misconceptions in that area.
  2. Identify a range of typical incorrect answers you have seen learners give in the past and write down how they come to that conclusion.
  3. Design questions based on each misconception and include possible distractor answers
  4. Provide appropriate feedback for each incorrect answer
  5. Share you forms/quizzes with other practitioners

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