Skip to Main Content

Create Quiz guide

Overview of how to create a Moodle Quiz and how to add your questions to the Quiz.

About Essay (auto-grade) question

The essay (auto-grade) question type allows an essay question response to be given a preliminary grade that is generated automatically based on one or more of the following characteristics of the response.

  • The number of words in the response
  • The number of characters in the response
  • The presence of one or more target phrases in the response
  • The presence of one or more common errors in the response

The automatic grade can be overridden by the lecturer later.

Additionally, the lecturer can set up grading bands that offer a non-linear grading scheme. In such a scheme, the grade awarded is that of the grading band in which the word/character count falls.

The lecturer can choose to provide a sample response and/or a glossary of common errors (typos or plagiarised sentences).

This question type is a great fit for formative assessment as it can provide quick feedback on essay questions. A sample response allows the lecturer to provide an example answer with the desired qualities. It can also be used for summative assessment where the lecturer reviews the essays and overrides the final mark and where a sample response is not provided.

Select question type

  1. Open the module.
  2. Select More on the contextual navigation menu, then Question bank.
  3. Select the relevant category to organise your question. Select Create a new question.
  4. Scroll down and select the radio button next to Essay (auto-grade).
  5. Select Add.

Write question statement

  1. Add a Question name. The name is not displayed to students. The example below displays Types of circulatory shock.
  2. Enter the full question Question text field, including anything that is expected in the answer. For example:

Write a short paragraph of 50 words or more about the different types of circulatory shock. You must also write your source for this information. Try to include the following phrases:

  • Low volume OR hypovolemic
  • Cardiogenic OR heart
  • Distributive OR isovolemic

You will get special bonus points if you use ALL of the above phrases.
You may fail this activity if you get your information from an unreliable source (as described in the module outline).

  • General feedback is optional, it is not dependent on whether the answer is right or wrong. It could be used to provide an example of the answer, links to further information or an explanation of how the question will be graded.
  • ID number, usually left blank, is another way of identifying questions. It must be unique with each question category.

Combined feedback settings

Combined feedback is optional.

Examples could include:

  • For any correct responses: Your essay has been marked as correct. Your lecturer will review this mark later.
  • For any partially correct responses: Good try. Please check to see if you have written enough words. Please include all the target phrases.
  • incorrect responses: No essay was received. Please ask your lecturer about how to input and submit an essay.

Response Options

Set how you want students to respond to the question.

  • Response format options:
    • HTML editor: text that can be formatted e.g. titles in bold
    • HTML with file picker: to accept attachments
    • Plain text: text without formatting
    • Plain text, monospaced font: characters in font occupy the same amount of horizontal space e.g., Courier.
    • No online text
  • Require text: text input can be mandatory or optional 
  • Input box size: the number of lines, from 5 to 40, which determines the size of the text box where answers are typed in.
  • Allow attachments: No, 1, 2, 3 or Unlimited depending on whether the essay is expected as a document
    • Require attachments: If Allow attachments is enabled a minimum number can be stipulated for the response to be graded.
    • Accepted file types: Restrict the type of file e.g. Audio - mp3,  Document - doc, Spreadsheet - .xls

Auto-grade response options for students

Response template

The Response Template settings are optional.

  • Response template: Any text entered here will be displayed in the response input box when a new attempt at the question starts. 
  • Sample response: A sample response allows the lecturer to provide an example answer with the desired qualities, so that the students can select the (Show sample) text and read what is expected from them. Selecting the (Hide sample) will remove the sample text and allows the student to write his essay. This student-friendly feature is highly recommended for formative assessment. 

Grader Information

Grader Information is optional and only visible to lecturers. It may be important to include anything that impacts on the question's grading. Below is text that is an example of what could be added to the Information for graders field.

As there may be many acceptable answers here, be sure to check carefully all answers, as it is very likely that many students will include valid answers that are not yet included in the target phrases. If so, please add the new valid answers. After all the new valid answers have been incorporated in the question target phrases, re-grade all student's attempts and inform them about their new grades. Be sure to hear all student's complaints about their answers not considered as valid (even though they might have been actually wrong). You can (maybe you should) include the feedback for the wrong student's answers in your glossary of common errors for the question (so that the students will see why their answers were marked as wrong).


Autograde settings

To enable auto grading:

  • Set Enable automatic grading to Yes.
  • Set Type of countable items to Words.
  • Set Expected number of items to 50.
  • Set Show student feedback to Yes, show to teachers and students.
  • Set Show grade calculation to No.
  • Set Show text statistics to Yes, show to teachers and students.
  • For Statistical items select Words, Unique words, Long words, Lexical density and Common errors.



Grade bands

  • Show grade bands: If enabled, details of the grade bands will be shown on the grading and review pages. In this example, this option has been disabled.
  • Award partial grades: If enabled, grades will be added for partially completed grade bands and two grade bands will appear by default. In this example, this option has been enabled.
  • Grade Bands: Add two grade bands for a question that is graded as a pass for containing 50 gradable items with the following settings:
    • Grade band 1: For 0 or more items, award 0% of the question grade
    • Grade band 2: For 50 or more items, award 60% of the question grade

Grade bands demonstration

Target phrases

  • Show target phrases: If enabled, details of the target phrases will be shown on the grading and review pages. In this example, this option has been disabled.
  • Target phrases: Add the number of target phrases required. Specify the word(s) and grade that will be awarded if this target appears in the essay. The four target phrases that have been added in this example are:
    • Target phrase [1]: If [low volume OR hypovolemic] is used, award [10% of the question grade.]
    • Target phrase [2]: If [cardiogenic OR heart OR cardiac OR pump] is used, award [10% of the question grade.]

Target phrases example within auto-grade

Commons Errors

If you have previously written a Glossary of common errors, choose that glossary and choose a reasonable penalty per error.

Common error configuration panel.

Save & preview

Save changes and Preview the question to test that all the settings are working correctly. 

Make sure to check the students' responses and make comments or change grades if needed.


Guidance adapted from Essay (auto-grade) question type from

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License