Penalty and Partial scoring in Quizzes - Q&A


This is an basic article because often questions about this specific feature appear on the social media. This week I had another one in this thread. The question was specific for Multiple Choice questions with multiple correct answers. It is a very basic post, not meant for advanced Quizzing users.



A penalty is a negative score linked to a question (or an individual answer for a MCQ, see below). It is essentially meant to avoid ‘guessing’.  Think about a T/F question where a learner always has 50% chance to choose the correct answer, without proving real understanding. In Captivate you can add a Penalty for each type of question in the Quiz Properties panel. You add it as a ‘positive’ number.  See this screenshot:

The Penalty will appear in the Advanced Interaction panel, column Negative points:

You can have a hands on experience with penalty, when playing with this short quiz (more explanation later on), has only MCQ type of question. The previous screenshot of the Advanced Interaction panel was for this example file. Either you watch this embedded version (fixed resolution) or you use this link to open a scalable version:

For this example I have used design elements from the most recent Quick Start Project ‘Business’.

Partial Scoring

Feature is only available for Multiple Choice Questions with one or multiple answers.  

For all other types of questions a learner gets the score  for a question only when everything is correct.  That can be very frustrating for learners if they just missed something.  That is certainly the case for a MCQ with multiple correct answers, but also for a Fill-in-the-Blank with multiple blanks, or a hotspots question with multiple hotspots. However those other types have no inbuilt  partial scoring.

MCQ with Multiple Correct Answers

To set up partial scores, you need to activate the option ‘Partial score’ and in this case the option ‘Multiple answers’ is of course also needed. If you do not specify the exact score for each answer, both score and eventually penalty will be equally distributed. But it is much better to identify the score and penalty, because each answer can have a different weight: some are more easy to detect than others. 

For that reason you need to:

  • select each answer
  • open its Properties panel
  • go to the Options tab
  • enter the ‘points’
  • for wrong answers you enter ‘negative’ points,

After entering individual score/penalty the score and the penalty on the Quiz Properties will look ‘dimmed’, but they are calculated as sums from the individual positive and negative scores of the answers. I prefer the expert UI because I can have both Properties and Quiz Properties next to each other, or at least both visible at the same time. Here an example for one correct answer, 6 points out of the total score of 15 points, because the two other correct answers have a score of 5 and 4points:

In this screenshot you see the ‘penalty’ or negative score for one of the wrong answers:

This wrong answer has a score of -4p, whereas the second wrong answer is estimated at -3p, which leads to a total penalty of 7points.

MCQ with One Correct Answer

It may be less logical for a MCQ with ONE correct answer, isn’t it?  However the term ‘partial score’ is also valid for ‘partial penalty’ as you could see above.  You may have several wrong answers, and some may considered to need a bigger penalty than other wrong answers. This means really differentiating the penalty which is available for MCQ with one correct answer. The first question slide in the example file was set up that way. The correct answer was rewarded with 10 points, the wrong answers had 3 different penalty scores. Here is an example:

Something is wrong with the ‘total’ penalty in the Quizzing Properties however.  It has been calculated as explained above: sum of all the negative scores. But in this case, the learner can only  mark one of the wrong answers, that penalty of 10 points can never exist.

Possible Issues

LMS reporting

When using SCORM 1.2 the LMS may not accept a score below 0. Just a warning

Attempts on Question level

The reason for the example file was the thread I mentioned in the introduction. In the example file, the Quiz attempts are set to Infinite, but the attempts on question level are limited to:

  • Two attempts for the Single Choice question
  • Three attempts for the Multiple Choice questions

The second and third question are identical, but the second has no partial scoring, the third has partial scoring turned on.  Captivate will see a question with a partially correct answer as a ‘correct’ question, and include it in the system variable cpQuizInfoTotalCorrectAnswers. That has also its consequence for the attempts. If you give only one correct answer, the attempts will be considered to be exhausted, you’ll not have the possibility to add correct answers. Try it out: you will see that you can use the 3 attempts always on the second question (as long as you don’t have all the correct answers), but not on the third question. That is a problem!