Best Practices for Exams in Canvas using Quizzes

If you have used Canvas Quizzes for homework, you are certain all your students will have access to a computer at the time of the exam, and your exam is mostly multiple choice and short answer, you might consider Canvas Quizzes. Otherwise, consider Canvas Assignments for file uploads or Gradescope for bubble sheets or scanned handwritten work.

What you should know before using Quizzes

  • It is vital to learn more about access controls for files that will be attached or embedded in your quiz to ensure students don’t get access to these parts of the exam too soon or too late.
  • Review the Student Guide to Canvas Quizzes for Exams to learn about what their experience will be like.
  • Consider how you will work with students who do not have ready access to a computer, or who have a letter of accommodation from the Office of Accessible Education (OAE).
  • Distribute the Student Guide to Canvas Quizzes for Exams ahead of time so that students can print it and be ready for situations such as internet disruptions.

Setting up your exam in Quizzes

Quiz instructions

Aside from general instructions and the honor code, be sure to give students a means to contact you if the internet is disrupted and describe a backup plan in your instructions (e.g., In the event your internet connection is disrupted for an extended period, see the Student Guide to Canvas Quizzes for Exams.)

Quiz options

There are several Quiz Options

Quiz options with time limit enabled and 180 entered in a box next to minutes

Add an availability window and maybe a time limit

If you want to give a more flexible time frame for students to submit an exam, but make sure they all have the same time limit for completion, then use the Time Limit feature (indicated in minutes) within the quiz settings. The time limit option has a 5 minute warning before the quiz will submit. If students need different time limits due to accommodations, see Allow extra time or multiple quiz attempts for individual students below.

If you want to set a specific date and time period for all students to take the exam, the best method is to use the Available From and Until fields to set those dates and exact times. The exam will close and auto-submit with a final 10-second warning (if the student has yet to submit, but is still working on it) when the until date and time passes. 

Adding a time limit or completing the Available From and Until fields will also cause the exam to auto-submit (whichever time is sooner).  If you want the exam marked late, there must also be a due date.
Assign field for assignments with the Due, Available from, and until fields circled

For an overview, see the diagram of the relationship of available from/until dates with due date and time limits.

Control when students see Quiz Responses and correct answers

If at any point you want students to view their answer selections and/or correct answers, 

  • Ensure you are only allowing students to see quiz responses after the Until date has passed
  • Leave “Let Students See their Quiz Responses” selected as well as “Let Students See the Correct Answers” selected 
  • Add a date in the “Show Correct Answers at” field.
    checkbox enabled to allow students to see their quiz reqponses with a date entered for when students can see

Allow extra time or multiple quiz attempts for individual students

The Moderate This Quiz page allows you to grant additional time to students who need it for accommodations. Note that this option only appears under Related Items after your exam is published.

Quiz options for Quiz Statistics, moderate this quiz, and speedgrader

If you are using a timed exam, you can add extra time for particular students. As mentioned above, make sure the Available Until time is not too early for students who are granted extra time as the student will be forced to submit at the Until Date even if the student has not used up the full time.

If you’re using Available From and Until dates to limit exam time, you can create a second set of dates for students that need extra time by clicking the +Add button and completing the Assign To fields. Note: Replacing or removing original ‘Assign to’ user(s) or group(s) after students have submitted will make submissions unavailable to view.

Screenshots of Assign To fields below.

different availability dates set for different users Quiz from instructor's view showing one student with a different due date

Setting up your questions

On the Questions tab, select the correct question type. There is no autosave so be sure to click Update Question when you are done making changes to a question, then click Save when done making edits to the quiz. Preview your test and click Save and Publish when ready  to release to students.  

Quiz question type set to Multiple choice


Set Grade Posting Policy

By default, the Grade Posting Policy of a course is set to Manual, which means grades are not released to students until an instructor or TA  Post Grades in the SpeedGrader or Grades tool. However, Instructors can change the Posting Policy. The posting policy of a quiz submission retains what is in effect at the time of submission, not at the time of grading, so it is essential to set the posting policy correctly before releasing the quiz and before students begin submitting the exam. To confirm the Grade Posting Policy for your course, go to the Gradebook, click the Settings (gear) icon to the far right of the page and click the Grade Posting Policy tab.

If you find you need to change the posting policy from Automatic to Manual for an individual quiz after a student has already submitted, you need to take the additional step of going to the Gradebook, find the assignment, click on the three dots, and select ‘Hide Grades’.

During and after the exam

Allow multiple quiz attempts for individual students

The Moderate This Quiz page allows you to grant additional quiz attempts to students who need it (e.g. if they were unable to attach the right document in time before the exam was auto-submitted)

If students are given an additional attempt after the Until and Due dates have passed, you will need to select the checkbox for “Manually unlock the quiz for the next attempt” to allow the student to retake the quiz while keeping the quiz closed to other students. Please note: when this checkbox is selected, students can retake the exam at any time, without being restricted by a date or time (unless it is a timed quiz).

Moderatethis quiz option called out


Use SpeedGrader to provide feedback on exams and student submissions. Any grades entered in SpeedGrader are automatically added to the Canvas Gradebook. Note: Multiple graders can view but should not enter grades in SpeedGrader at the same time. Learn about how to avoid data loss when grading in the SpeedGrader.