Developing high-quality reading practice quizzes for Accelerated Reader

By Chris Jarosh

Reading practice quizzes are at the heart of Accelerated Reader. On the average school day over 70,000 quizzes are taken by students across the United Kingdom & Ireland; millions every year.

Students take one of over 26,000 carefully produced reading practice quizzes which test their comprehension of the book they have just read. They are fun to take and students are motivated by seeing their success. But what makes a good AR quiz and how do we go about producing them?

1. Read the book carefully

When we’re training new quiz writers, we tell them that they are among the luckiest people alive. What could be better than sitting at home reading quality children’s literature and coming up with quiz questions? They soon discover that it’s much harder work than it sounds. Every quiz writer has a slightly different method, but they all read the books very thoroughly making notes on the key characters and events. Only when they have got to grips with the detail of a book can they begin to work on the quiz.

2. Focus on the main plot points

Reading practice quizzes are designed to test how well a student has understood the book they have been reading. We aren’t trying to catch a child out; there are no trick questions. Instead, we ask questions about the main events of the story.

Questions are in a multiple-choice format with one answer that is clearly correct to anyone who has read the book and three incorrect answers that would seem plausible to anyone who hasn’t read the book. Many of our quiz writers find the art of coming up with plausible incorrect responses the most enjoyable part of the process.

3. Watch the film

While reading practice quizzes are primarily intended to test how well a student has understood a book, they also identify whether they have actually read the book. From time to time students think they can trick their teachers by watching the film and then taking the AR quiz. They soon find that we deliberately write our quizzes so that they cannot be passed from the film alone. We even revisit existing quizzes after a film adaptation has been released, revising the quiz to make sure students have to read the book version to pass it.

4. Write for the level of the book

The Book Level and point value of a book are determined (using the ATOS formula) before we write a quiz for it. This ensures that our quiz writers can keep the complexity of the language used in the quiz similar to that of the book. If a student can understand a book, we want to be sure that he or she can understand the quiz as well.

5. Maintain pinpoint accuracy

We don’t want students to be confused or frustrated by questions that are not quite right. Once a quiz is written, we have a three-stage editing process to iron out any wrinkles we find. Then quizzes receive a final quality check before they are approved. New quiz writers are always surprised by the level of accuracy we work to, but they quickly learn to avoid the common pitfalls.

Never compromising on quality

Writing high-quality quizzes isn’t easy, but it is vital to the integrity of AR. We have an expert team working to produce approximately 200 new quizzes every month; over 26,000 in total. Despite the quantity of quizzes we add to AR, we never compromise on quality. By taking these steps (and many, many others!) we make sure that every quiz is as good as it can be.

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