Creating a timed quiz or exam in Moodle

Many faculty like to offer timed or take-home exams in which the exam can be started within a certain window of time and must be completed within a specified time limit.  It is possible to create this type of exam using the Moodle Quiz activity.  The students' work can be uploaded to Moodle as a file or entered directly into a text box within Moodle.  When a student begins the exam, a countdown timer is shown on the Moodle page to alert the student to the time remaining.  It is also possible to include other types of questions, such as multiple-choice, fill in the blank, essay, etc.

Timed Assignments vs. Timed Quizzes

It is also possible to use a Moodle Assignment for a timed exam. See Creating a Timed Take-Home Exam using a Moodle Assignment.  A timed assignment is easier to set up and grade if you want students to submit a single file.  A timed quiz has more functionality if you want to include auto-graded questions (e.g. multiple choice or fill in the blank) or would like to grade several short essays.

Ideas and Considerations

  • You can provide instructions and questions for the exam within a Moodle text box or upload a file with the exam instructions.  It is also possible to provide a template file with the exam instructions and space for the student to enter their responses.

  • If your class is not used to taking online exams of this type, it may be advisable to create a copy of the quiz with dummy questions so that students can practice the process of submitting the response to the exam.  

  • There are a lot of options available for the Quiz activity.  Many of these are set up to be used with automatically graded quizzes (such as multiple choice or fill-in-the-blanks).  These can be ignored for a simple file upload quiz.

Exam Setup

Quiz Settings

  • Go to your Moodle course page and turn editing on

  • Add the Quiz activity to your course

  • Under Timing, enter the window of time that you would like the exam to open and close along with the maximum time allowed for the exam (time limit).  

    • Under "When time expires" Most people select "Attempts must be submitted before time expires."  For multiple-choice exams with lots of questions, some of the other choices make sense, but for an exam with a single file upload as an answer, the other choices aren't helpful.

  • Add Grade and Layout information per your preferences.

Set "Attempts allowed" to 1 unless you want students to be able to take the exam multiple times.

  • Under Question Behavior, you can leave the defaults unless you want to adjust the behavior of multiple-choice questions.

  • Review Options: uncheck everything available to adjust under "During the Attempt", "Immediately after the Attempt" and "Later, while the quiz is still open"

  • The rest of the options can be left with their default settings unless you have a different preference.

  • Click on "Save and display"

Quiz Questions

After creating the quiz, you are ready to add questions.  From the Quiz page, click "Add Question" (Grey box to the middle left of the page, under the Opened and Closes times).   

Moodle uses a question bank to manage quiz questions.  If you copy a quiz and edit a question, any other quiz using the same question will be changed too.  If you copy a quiz and want to create new questions, remove any existing questions first, instead of editing the questions.  

File Upload / Essay Question

For most cases, you will just want to add a single place for students to upload a file.  

  • Click on the "Add" button on the right-hand side of the page and select "New Question", then pick the "Essay" question type and add it to the quiz.

  • Question Name: Add a descriptive name for the question.  Only you will see this (it is not shown to students)

  • Question Text: Here is where you can add the exam questions.  You can either enter the instructions in text format or upload a file with some instructions.

    • To upload a file with instructions, type of the title of the document (e.g. "Instructions for exam"), select the text, click on the "chain link" icon, then the "Browse Repositories" button, then "Upload a file" tab.  Select and upload your file. 

    • Enter some text in the instructions area such as "Click here to download the exam instructions"

    • Select the text you just entered and click the link icon (looks like a chain)

    • Click "Browse repositories" then click "Embedded files" (on the left side), and then select your file.

    • The text you entered will now be linked to the file you uploaded.

  • Response Format: if you only want students to upload a file, change this to "No inline text"

  • Allow attachments: Select the appropriate amount.  Usually, this will be one.

  • Require attachments: Select the appropriate amount.  Usually, this will be one.

You can leave the rest of the settings as default and save the changes.

Auto-graded Questions

Moodle has a variety of questions that can be auto-graded, such as Multiple Choice, True/False, and Fill in the Blank.  Follow the instructions above to edit the quiz and then add the appropriate question type.  Click on the question mark icons on the question editing page for additional help.


Click on the "Preview" link under "Quiz Administration" (left side menu) to see what the exam will look like.  Note the "Time left" countdown on the left side of the screen.


You can see the individual file uploads students have made under the results section.

Additional Resources

Moodle Quiz Help

LinkedIn Learning tutorial on Moodle quizzes

Ways you can contact ITS or find information:

ITS Support Portal:
Phone: x4357 (HELP) or 610-328-8513
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