Why You Need Adaptive Quizzing

Put yourself in your child's shoes and

imagine this ...

Each week, you and 30 other students file into a coaching college classroom and are handed the same exam paper with the same practice questions as every other student. You take a seat and begin working through the practice paper. An hour passes,

Figure 1: Not a lot has changed since the 1940s

‘Everybody stop,’ calls the teacher. ‘Now let’s go through the answers, put your hand up if you got a question wrong and I will explain how to do it.’ 

The teacher calls out the first answer – you answered differently.

Reluctantly, you put your hand up. You look around the classroom, and no one else has their hand up, but you can see over your shoulder that the boy next to you chose the wrong answer as well. Why hasn’t he raised his hand?

‘So, to do this question, we start by…’ says the teacher as she writes on the board. 

The teacher’s explanation isn’t clear, but you don’t ask her to repeat it. It’s an awkward environment, and you don’t want to look like you can’t keep up. Your parents talk so much about coaching college and how it will help you make it into the best selective schools, but you can’t help feeling that it’s a waste of time. You’d never say this to your parents though; it would just make them angry – they have their hearts set on selective school and think a coaching college offers the best chance.

Unfortunately, this is the reality for many children studying for Selective Exams. Many tutoring centres are stuck using old, inefficient, classroom-based methods of teaching, that fail to address the diverse learning needs of students. If each student has unique strengths and weaknesses, why are they being given the same work to do? Coaching colleges are a very profitable business model but not a very good learning environment. In coaching colleges, students waste valuable study time with inefficient techniques, meaning they must work twice as hard to get results. They are rote learning and are not developing critical thinking skills. These children are also not developing into self-directed and highly motivated, passionate, lifelong learners. 

What is Adaptive Quizzing?

Adaptive quizzing is a breakthrough tool in the way that students are taught. Before we go into 300 Selective’s use of adaptive quizzing for the Selective Exam, let’s look at adaptive quizzing holistically, and what the scientific evidence shows.

To complete an adaptive quiz, a student will sit at a computer and answer the quiz

questions. As the student completes the questions, the computer notes which questions the student answers correctly and incorrectly. Using the information on how the student answers questions, the computer will automatically adjust the difficulty levels of questions to suit the student’s needs. If the student is unable to answer questions, the questions will become easier. If the student is finding the questions easy, the questions become harder. Think of it like a practice test that is marked immediately. Rather than completing an entire test and then correcting right or wrong answers, imagine this:

The student answers a set of five questions correctly, making it clear that the student is above this level of difficulty. The student is challenged with higher-level questions. But the student struggles with these much harder questions, so the program gives slightly easier questions. Once the student grasps the easier questions, they are once again challenged with the higher-level questions. By listening to the needs of the student, the adaptive quiz has helped them reach their highest potential.

Video - levels of difficulty on 300 Selective's Adaptive Quizzing Engine

Now, compare this with paper practice tests such as those used in coaching colleges:

The student receives a practice paper. They spend an hour working on it, and then twenty minutes marking it. The first section was easy, and they got every question right except for two challenge questions. The student wrongly assumes that they don’t need to practice this topic further. The middle section was too hard, and the student answered half of the questions wrong. There is no way to locate questions of similar difficulty in practice papers other than to comb through other papers and attempt to spot these questions by eye, which is inefficient. The student completes four more middle sections of practice papers, wasting time on questions that are too easy.

The difference between adaptive quizzing and paper practice tests is in the efficiency with which adaptive quizzing can achieve learning outcomes.

What does the science say?

For a 2019 study of nursing students in America, computerised adaptive quizzes were incorporated into coursework as assignments, helping students practice for their final, high-stakes examination. Incorporating adaptive quizzes increased graduation rates, critical thinking, test performance and student engagement. Furthermore, adaptive quizzes reduced test anxiety for the final exam.  

Another 2019 study on engineering students showed adaptive quizzing increased self-motivated learning for many students, as well as providing valuable information to the tutors on what their students required from them. Did you notice that both studies use adaptive quizzing as a learning tool in conjunction with teaching? This will be discussed in section 3 of this article.

A literature review on studies comparing human tutoring (a single expert tutor helping a student), to computerised tutoring (such as adaptive learning), shows that human tutors rarely know about their students’ false beliefs or skills they lack in. Human tutors seldom ask questions that would reveal this helpful information. Furthermore, even when given such information, tutors do not change their behaviour to correct their student’s false beliefs and skills. Computerised tutors can pick up on these shortcomings and instantly adjust their behaviour. In fact, they collect data on a student’s strengths and weaknesses and reveal these to the student.

What human tutors do that computer tutors don’t, is give students the freedom to ask any questions they desire. However, a 2002 study found that 37% of the time when students are speaking to tutors, they are merely asking if something is right, e.g. ‘three times seven is twenty-one, right?’ Computer tutors tell you if you are correct or not far more accurately than a human tutor as they minimise human error.

Why is human tutoring still preferred over computerised tutoring? Many assume that human tutors offer motivation in a way that computers do not. Although it seems logical that encouragement can increase motivation, which increases a student’s interest in learning materials, and can increase learning, it is not the case. Studies have not shown this to be true, in fact, praise in the wrong place can harm a student’s learning outcomes. The most likely reason human tutors are effective is that human tutors offer regular feedback, and this feedback likely helps students figure out what they did wrong more quickly.  Furthermore, tutors’ behaviours impact students’ behaviours, and this may lead to better learning habits. It seems that human tutors outperform computerised tutors in their ability to encourage students to fix their knowledge when they encounter a question they struggle with. Tutors are valuable in this area, but computerised tutors are valuable in other areas. 

What if you combined the strengths of human tutors, with the strengths of computerised tutors (such as adaptive learning), so that both learning tools complemented each other and made up for each other’s shortcomings? That is where 300 Selective’s use of adaptive quizzing comes in. We do not pretend that computers are better than human tutors, but we recognise that there are benefits and shortcomings to both, and so we have combined them. You are familiar with face-to-face tutoring and what it brings to the table, but here is what adaptive quizzing brings to face-to-face tutoring:

Two reasons why adaptive quizzing is valuable:

  1. Students learn better when they are challenged.

If your child is not being challenged, then they are merely practising things they can already do. Now, there are benefits to practising, such as reducing your child’s chance of making an error during the Selective Exam. Practising is also beneficial for students who get nervous during exams, as it will help them feel more comfortable.

But think of the times when you have learnt the most. They didn’t arise from writing the same thing repeatedly – this is memorisation, not learning, and it certainly isn’t challenging. The times you learnt the most were the times you were challenged – when you faced something new that you didn’t know how to deal with, or that there was no how-to guide for. Think of how much you have learnt from being a parent, and how many new child-induced challenges you have faced.

Your child does not know everything there is to know, which means they can be surprised during the Selective Exam. The more they are challenged, the more capable they will be to face challenges when they arise. If your child is challenged above their current abilities, everything below their abilities becomes easier.

  1. It’s like a tutor with a perfect memory.

Take the analogy of a tutor who is sitting beside the student, analysing what they know about the student – the student doesn’t do well in maths, they struggle with fractions. Using this information, the tutor then decides on what to do in the next lesson. A computer can do this but can retain more information, including how other students are faring in similar questions. Computers collate data about all students, while a human tutor can only know about your child and several other students. The adaptive quizzing algorithm knows when and where to help your child, and most importantly, it can pass this information on to both your child and their 300 Selective tutors.

With adaptive quizzing, your child can know where they need help, and now their tutor has extensive data that they are trained in analysing, to use for their next lesson plan. Providing this data to a child’s tutor is fundamental as it addresses the issue discussed in section 2: human tutor’s lack of awareness of their students’ weaknesses and false beliefs. 

Furthermore, this data (which remains anonymous unless it is being used for a lesson plan with a customer’s chosen 300 Selective tutor) can be used to analyse broadly where the curriculum is lacking in regard to the skills required in the Selective Exam. If 300 Selective can identify where its students may struggle in one area of the Selective Exam, then we can focus on improving our students’ knowledge of this area. Now, the Selective Exam is highly competitive, so consider the students that your child is competing with, who’ve only used human tutoring. Their tutors will not be as aware of this knowledge gap. That means that thanks to the 300 Selective computer algorithm’s ability to collect, retain, and organise data, your child now has a major competitive advantage. We are ahead when it comes to data on the education system, and we will use this to put your child ahead.

If you want your child to be accepted into a top selective school, adaptive quizzing is the tool you need. 300 Selective offers free trial options, so that you can try our quizzing services before you purchase them. While you do have the option to buy the quizzes alone (the Bronze package), we highly recommend a combined quizzing and tutoring package (Silver or Gold package). These packages are excellent value for money—the team at 300 Selective looks forward to hearing from you soon.


Kaw, A. Clark, R. Delgado, E. Abate, N. 2019, ‘Analysing the use of adaptive learning in a flipped classroom for preclass learning’, Computer Applications in Engineering Education, Vol. 27, No. 3.

Presti, C. Sanko, J. 2019, ‘Adaptive Quizzing Improves End-of-Program Examination Scores’, Nurse Educator, Vol. 44, No. 3

Vanlehn, K. 2011, ‘The Relactive Effectiveness of Human Tutoring, Intelligent Tutoring Systems, and Other Tutoring Systems’, Educational Psychologist, Vol. 46, No. 4.

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