Syllabus Quiz

Karin Kirk, Science Education Resource Center
and Mel Huff, Geology & Environmental Science Faculty, NEO A&M College
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This page first made public: Jun 28, 2010


This quiz helps students make sure they understand the important policies of the course before they embark into the course. Because students in online courses need to digest all of the course rules by reading through various documents on the course website, they may miss key aspects of the course structure, leaving them woefully unaware of important course policies.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications



This could be used in any course, but seems especially relevant for online, introductory-level courses where students are more likely to need additional orientation for the course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Before taking the quiz, students are supposed to have read and digested the course syllabus and other important policies.
Students will also need to know how to login to the course, find the quiz, and submit it. This sounds simple, but many students need reassurance that they will be able to master the technical skills to take an online course.

How the activity is situated in the course

This quiz takes place in the first week of the course. Students must complete this quiz before week 2, when the real course content begins. Some faculty may elect to lock everything beyond the quiz so that students have to complete it prior to proceeding to the rest of the course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The only goals for this assignment are that the students understand important course policies, such as:
  • attendance
  • point values of various parts of the course
  • rules for plagiarism

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity


Other skills goals for this activity

  • Using the course platform
  • Submitting the quiz

Description of the activity/assignment

This quiz is part of the first unit of the course. The text of two examples quizzes is below, and of course you would want to change the questions and answers to reflect the policies and important points of your own course.

Self Test: Course Guidelines

Correct answers are in italics.

Attendance in this course is

  • optional
  • required three times a week
  • required once per week
  • required once per module


  • does not count toward the grade
  • counts for 10% of the overall course grade

The most valuable part of the course in terms of point value is

  • written assignments
  • discussions
  • final project

You may contact me by

  • sending a private message
  • using the course email
  • using private email
  • using Skype
  • arranging a time to talk on the phone
  • all of the above

Answers to the written questions at the end of each module

  • should be based on the textbook only
  • can be answered by pasting in text from Wikipedia
  • can be answered with information from a combination of the textbook and credible web sites

Pasting in text from a web site to answer written questions is

  • a great time-saver
  • OK if it's from a credible or a recommended site
  • allowed if you give credit to the author
  • explicitly not allowed, and will result in zero points being awarded

Answering written questions using text that is verbatim (or nearly so) from the textbook is

  • helpful if it answers the question exactly
  • OK if you put quotations around the text
  • explicitly not allowed, and will result in zero points being awarded

True or false: Answers to written assignment questions have to be composed entirely in your own words.

  • True
  • False

If you use information (not exact text) from the textbook or web sites to answer written assignment questions, you need to

  • be thankful that you found the answers
  • give the URL of the website and the page number from the textbook

The best way to earn a high grade in the discussions is to

  • post a lot
  • write posts that contain relevant content
  • post something you think the instructor will agree with

Writing a discussion post that is based on your opinion

  • can be a good way to jump into the discussion
  • is especially relevant if you have direct personal or professional experience with the topic
  • is not worth as many points as a more substantive post that you researched from other sources
  • should not be the only type of post you make
  • all of the above

If you don't like science you should

  • suffer through this course and hope for a C
  • try to change your personality so that you do like science
  • understand that even though this is a science course, it mostly deals with aspects of everyday life that most people find to be quite interesting

Example Syllabus Quiz
Mel Huff, Geology & Environmental Science Faculty, NEO A&M College

Correct answers are in italics.

Feel free to change the answers to fit your particular course. In addition, I change the questions from semester to semester if the previous class had struggled understanding or remembering part of the syllabus. These questions are the ones that I repeatedly get asked throughout each semester, even though the answers are stated in the syllabus as well as other locations in the course.

1. How often should you log into this class?

  • Once a month or less
  • Never
  • At least once per week
  • Every few weeks or so

2. I will be able to turn in late homework.

  • True
  • False

3. I will be able to make up an exam.

  • True
  • False

4. I have to pass lab to pass the class.
  • True
  • False

5. How will exams be taken?

  • Via D2L
  • We don't have exams in this class
  • proctored

6. I don't have to respond to EVERY discussion

  • True
  • False

7. How will labs occur? (select all that apply)

  • We don't have labs for this class
  • We will meet during 2 Saturday sessions to do labs
  • Lab is optional for this class
  • I will download instructions and do labs on my own

8. What is the purpose of the tentative schedule listed at the end of the Syllabus?

  • To keep me on track for finishing the course
  • So that I have an idea of what we will be covering
  • I have no idea
  • It has no purpose

9. Which of the following will you be able to drop one of? (select all that apply)

  • homework
  • lab
  • discussion response
  • exam

(I also add in a few short answer responses and have them name some things that are environmentally friendly or geological in nature (depending on the course) just to get them thinking about the class.)

Teaching Tips

Adaptations that allow this activity to be successful in an online environment

This assignment replaces the first day of class when you jump up and down and reiterate how important it is that students know the course policies.

Elements of this activity that are most effective

The effectiveness of a syllabus quiz depends on the students' abilities to remember information and pick out what is important. I have used my quiz for several years. For the most part, I believe it is very effective (even in a face 2 face class) as it forces students to focus on the points I have deemed most important. That said, I still get a few students asking if they can make up an exam, for example. When I remind them about the rules in the syllabus, generally their response is that they have a hard time remember what rules/syllabus go with each course. It is my opinion that students in an online course know and remember the rules a lot better.

Recommendations for other faculty adapting this activity to their own course:

Obviously you can adapt this quiz to the particulars of your own course. I change the questions from semester to semester if the previous class had struggled understanding or remembering part of the syllabus. These questions are the ones that I repeatedly get asked throughout each semester, or ones that students get surprised by.

Determining whether students have met the goals

  • A syllabus quiz is ideal when it is self-grading and students receive instant feedback.
  • If possible, set up the quiz so that they may take the quiz as many times as needed to get all the questions correct.
  • Some faculty do not score the quiz; others may elect to have the quiz grade count so that students take it more seriously.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

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