Assessments and Exams

In Short

You can use Canvas to create different types of assessments and exams. Canvas’s quiz tool makes it easy to set a time limit, randomize questions, and use automatic grading. Canvas’s assignments allow instructors to provide feedback directly on students’ submissions, while Gradescope has a dynamic rubric and efficiently allows multiple instructors to simultaneously grade student submissions.

Goals: Why Create Exams in Canvas? 

  • Exams in Canvas can be timed, convenient, fair, and accessible.
  • Instructors can organize submissions centrally and securely.
  • To use sophisticated grading tools.
  • To allow multiple graders to grade exams at the same time.


Key Considerations

  • Consider your goals. Is offering a timed exam important? Do you wish students to be able to use notes or look things up online? Do you want students to have instant feedback, or do you want to grade submissions yourself before allocating grades? Your goals will guide how and where you set up the exam.
  • Weigh your options. There are several ways you can use Canvas and its integrated applications for exams. We’ve outlined some possibilities below.
Exam platform Submission type How submissions are gathered Grading Time management
Canvas Quizzes Different submission types can be included in the same quiz: multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, file upload, matching etc. Students can respond to questions in the browser or upload files. Integrates with SpeedGrader. Instructor allocates the maximum time students have within a window, e.g. 60 minutes between December 1 and 3.
Canvas Assignments Supports various file upload types. File upload, text entry. Integrates with SpeedGrader. Instructor sets date available and date due.
Gradescope Supports various exam formats (on paper and uploaded; digital exam, including short answer, free response, multiple choice, and file upload). The Gradescope app allows students to scan work from their phone. Students can type into their browsers or upload files. Graded in Gradescope, grades are transferred to Canvas. Allows for “horizontal grading,” i.e. grading the same question on multiple exams rather than one exam at a time; multiple graders can also grade simultaneously, focusing on a particular set of each. A timed exam  with release date and due date can be set in Gradescope and synced to Canvas assignments.

In practice

  • Create a practice exam. Setting a brief practice exam with the same types of questions as the actual exam eases everyone’s anxiety, resolves technical issues before the exam begins, and allows students during the exam to focus on the questions rather than figuring out the format.
  • Consider randomizing questions. Setting up a bank of questions from which students are allocated a random selection can help to maintain academic integrity. You can also more confidently reuse a quiz in future semesters as no student has taken an identical exam. If you randomize questions, be attentive to difficulty level and the mix of question types.
  • Communicate guidelines clearly. If setting an exam for students to take out of class, make sure they know how long they will have to complete it and when it will be available.
  • Preview the exam. Using the preview function will let you see what your students will see and address unexpected issues.


Digital Tools

  • Canvas’s native Quizzes and Assignment are integrated with the gradingtool Speedgrader as well as the Gradebook. Read more about assessment and grading here.
  • Gradescope is especially useful in large enrollment classes with multiple, simultaneous graders. There are a number of ways to use Gradescope with Canvas. Read more about Gradescope here.


Updated 8/22/21