Online Quizzes: ESL Allies or Waste of Time?

Online Quizzes
ESL Allies or Waste of Time?

Claudia Pesce
by Claudia Pesce 12,875 views

In today’s day and age, students can practice almost anything they need to improve their English online.

They can read authentic material, listen to real audio, complete a dictation online and even speak into a microphone to practice pronunciation. There have been quizzes for ESL learners available online right from the start. But not everything that is available online is appropriate for your students. Are online quizzes your best ESL allies or a complete waste of time? Let’s take a closer look.

The Advantages of Online Quizzes

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    Computer Literacy

    Most ESL students know how to, at the very least, navigate the Internet and have basic computers skills. Most feel absolutely comfortable in an online environment and will not only enjoy completing quizzes online, they will work through them quickly and efficiently.

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    Timely Feedback

    Most online quizzes either show the correct answer after each question or correct them all at the end. Most also give students a “result” usually as a percentage of correct answers. This means that students don’t have to wait for the teacher to correct the quiz. They get their feedback while their doubts are still fresh on their minds.

  3. 3


    Students are able to progress at their own pace. They may take as long as they need for particularly difficult questions; there’s no pressure from the teacher or peers to respond quickly, as there might be in an oral Q & A. This creates a very safe, non threatening environment that is ideal for classes where you have students who process information at different speeds.

  4. 4


    At this point in time, the Internet probably has hundreds of online quizzes for us to choose from, in a wide range of topics from grammar to specific vocabulary, listening to reading quizzes. If you are teaching something, there is most likely an online quiz somewhere that your students can take for further practice.

  5. 5

    Individualized Learning

    Instead of making the entire class do the same quiz, you may choose to give each student a different one to target specific needs.

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    Online quizzes may be accessed by students any day, any time. They may in fact, choose to take the same one again and again to improve their score.

  7. 7


    Online quizzes are great for developing learner autonomy and helping them take control of their learning.

The Disadvantages

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    The one obvious disadvantage is that not every ESL classroom has a computer, let alone access to a computer lab with one computer for each student. There may be classes in which you may ask students to bring laptops, tablets or other mobile devices with Internet access. You may also assign online quizzes for students to do at home if they have the technology there.

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    The other main disadvantage is something that has to do with the Internet itself and the astounding variety of materials available – not all of them are good quality. Some may have mistakes, others may not be challenging enough. You must take the time to conduct a proper screening to make sure the quizzes and links work properly, and that there are no distracting ads or banners with content that is inappropriate.

How to Make Online Quizzes Your Allies

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    Choose Wisely

    Choose online quizzes that are not only appropriate for your students’ level, but also challenging enough so that they may learn something from them. Don’t just look at the website and list of quizzes, try completing an entire quiz yourself. If possible, choose quizzes from well-known, established sites like:

  2. 2

    Keep a Record

    Have an Excel file where you can add the URL to the quiz, the date in which your class completed it and your students’ scores. Even better than this is to provide one file for each student (shared via GoogleDocs) so that each student may access and see the progress they’ve made, as well as specific areas of difficulty (maybe they get lower scores on the grammar quizzes than on the vocabulary quizzes, or vice versa). This is a great way to make them active participants in their language learning.

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    Find the Right Balance

    Once you start using online quizzes in class, you’ll see your students will really enjoy them. But you should never replace regular written quizzes with online quizzes. Online quizzes usually require students to choose the right answer from a drop-down menu or click on the right choice. They rarely require them to type the answer. You’ll still have to give them regular pen and paper quizzes so they have a chance to practice their writing.

Conclusion: Just like you’d do with most other things available online, to make sure online quizzes are not a waste of time, you have to take the time to pick the right ones for your class. Like any online tool, it is not the tool itself that is either good or bad, it is the use you give it. Choose the right one, and you’ll have a trusty ally to help you in your English-teaching efforts.

If you have more websites with online quizzes to recommend, please share them in the comments below so we can expand the list!

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