Option list question

Ranking questions in (digital) assessment

You can use numerous types of test questions to create your ideal test. An example is the ranking question. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this question type, and what tips can you apply when using it within (digital) assessment?

What are ranking questions?

Ranking questions are questions in which the candidate has to rank several options in order of importance, relevance, or correctness. This could include steps in a process, events over time, or a list of items in order of importance. You can use this to test a candidate’s ability to organize and categorize concepts logically. It tests the candidate’s acquired knowledge and levels of understanding at a different level than traditional multiple-choice questions, for example.


An example of a ranking question is as follows:

Question: Put the steps in the correct order that you go through when buying a house:

  1. Selecting a buying agent
  2. Viewing a house
  3. Making an offer on a house
  4. Arranging financing
  5. Signing a purchase agreement

Answer options

In the example above, the answer options have already been put in the correct order. However, the attentive reader can see that this ranking question is confusing. This is because steps 1 and 2 can also be reversed and are therefore not objective. Therefore, make sure you have the correct test technique knowledge before compiling questions!


For each correctly ordered item, you can award one point. For an utterly correct order, you can grant a bonus point. It is essential to adjust the point scoring to the specific test and the emphasis you want to place on certain steps. It is also possible to accept multiple correct sequences with different scores. Establishing particular criteria and laying them down in the test guidelines is always essential.

Advantages of a ranking question

There are several advantages of a ranking question:

  • Flexibility: Ranking questions can be used for different types of content and levels of mastery. This makes it a flexible way to (re)acknowledge candidates’ knowledge.
  • Exploration of knowledge: Ranking questions force candidates to organize and categorize their knowledge and understanding. Especially when learning through formative assessment, this can provide additional insight and knowledge of a particular topic.
  • Practical uses: Ranking questions can be used with different topics and levels. This makes it a practical way to assess candidate performance.
  • Improving memory: Ranking questions force candidates to organize information in a certain way, making it easier for them to remember and understand. This makes it an excellent tool for formative assessment.

Disadvantages of a ranking question

There are several disadvantages to using a ranking question in digital assessment:

  • Complexity: Creating a good Ranking Question requires some thought regarding test construction. Formulating answer options that are sufficiently specific but still allow a realistic ranking is difficult.
  • Subjectivity: Ranking questions are often more subjective than other question types. This is because answers may depend on personal opinions and interpretations.
  • Limited applicability: Ranking questions are inappropriate for every topic or situation. Therefore, make sure to comply with quality criteria for exam question.
  • Time: It can be time-consuming to create and assess ranking questions. This is because there are more considerations and analyses to evaluate the answers. So tailor this to what you want to test!

Tips for creating a ranking question

  • Keep the number of options limited: Try to keep the number of choices limited to a maximum of six, as this helps the tester form a clear and manageable picture of the different elements.
  • Use logical ranking options: Ensure the options are clear and logical to the candidate and can be arranged clearly and unambiguously.
  • Include supporting images and descriptions: Images and reports can help to visualize better and clarify the ranking options. Just be careful not to give unintended hints about the answer!

Conclusion – Ranking questions (ranking questions) in (digital) assessment

The ranking question is a unique closed-ended question type that can take your (digital) test to the next level. Its main advantage is that it tests the candidate’s ability to make logical connections between answer options. As a result, you measure better what you want to measure. However, there are also disadvantages to this test question, especially when it comes to testing construction. Want to learn more about a test platform that allows you to use this question easily? Then read more about Optimum Assessment Platform.

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