The Impact of Daily Exit Quizzes on Student Performance on Unit Tests

Author: Phillip Buzzelli, BSHS, Cleveland State University


        The purpose of this study was to create a strategy to hold students accountable for mastering the day’s objectives and evaluates the impact of daily quizzes on unit test results. Based on observations of several different classes, most classroom practices showed students were not being held responsible for the learning targets in each day’s lesson. According to Poljičan (2009), he was able to observe a positive correlation between the use of daily exit quizzes on unit tests. The exit quiz intervention was determined to be effective by observing higher mastery and near mastery on two different unit tests results. 

      This study was based on a strong interest in fostering improved daily learning skills given the many challenges for urban high school students.  Through many hours of observation of various classes as well as teaching in classrooms, it became clear that students were not being held accountable for the specific target goals in each lesson.  In two different Physical Science classes students were presented with a daily exit pass activity to complete on the same sheet, and then submitted this sheet each Friday.  Students used a variety of methods that hindered and diminished the quality of the activity, from copying a classmates’ work, taking a photograph of the question and answering the question at a more convenient time, to some students not doing the activity and not turning the paper in at the end of the week.

      Strong benefits were realized for both students and teacher with revised daily exit pass quizzes, which helped increase students’ mastery of content over two different unit tests and enabled the instructor to monitor and adjust teaching practices, methods, and strategies.  The study showed that the use of the daily exit quizzes helped provide a stronger structure for learning accountability and classroom time management as every class concluded with an exit quiz and a review of the correct answers.


Literature Review

      The study of using daily exit quizzes as an assessment has shown it provided a strong structure in classroom management, but more importantly, this study showed an increased student mastery of content in Physical Science.  Students began to see content more often and developed test and quiz taking skills that can be stretched across various disciplines.   Assessing student knowledge on a daily basis is imperative for instructors for data gathering purposes, as well as preparing for and adjusting their next lessons.  Teachers are able to see what specific content individual students may have difficulty with, while also seeing where students excel.

      Students are able to increase their mastery of content through daily exit quizzes.  The opportunity for students to show their understanding of information from a specific class period helps hold students accountable for the lesson presented in class.  The use of two opportunities to practice per day or TOP Day, was a way of having students repeat the subject matter in class (Tanck, 2013). He was able to research the effectiveness of daily quizzes on test results in a second year Dutch biomechanics class for 95 students. Students received an electronic copy of one or two multiple-choice questions each regular course day and were provided immediate feedback.  The students had the choice to participate or not.  The results of student responses in groups B (medium participation) and C (high participation) scored higher than group A (low participation). Similar to Tanck study, the use of paper daily exit quizzes in a 9th grade science course helped increase mastery learning.  In contrast to Tanck’s study, this high school Physical Science study required students in attendance to take the quizzes which was a strong factor in the success of student test scores.

      The use and effect of daily assessment is a strategy that has been studied and implemented in a variety of ways.  Poljičanin et al. (2009) studied the use of daily 10 question quizzes to assess 79 students at the University of Split School of Medicine in a medical anatomy course. A total of 34 quizzes were administered to the students and the results of their final examination grades compared to the previous year where students were not given daily quizzes. Students who were administered the daily quizzes outperformed the previous year in a pass rate on the final exam of 62% compared to 39% (Poljičanin et al., 2009).  The implementation of 2 to 3 questions on each daily exit quiz showed that nearly twice the percentage of students showed mastery on a unit test compared to the class with out daily quizzes.  Providing students with a consistent structure in the classroom allows them to develop a routine of displaying their understanding of content through daily quizzes and utilizing the feedback from the quizzes on the unit tests.

      It is crucial to have routines and structure in the classroom for students coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds.  Making adjustments to introductory level STEM courses for first year undergraduate students to use more active learning has become a solution to reducing the achievement gap in biology students (Haak, HilleRisLambers, Pitre, &Freeman 2010).  First year undergraduate students are making transitions from various styles of teaching to more independent learning, similar to 9th grade students entering their first year of high school. Instructors strive to develop and sustain an effective structured learning environment for students.  Haak et al. (2010) studied how a highly structured course design can reduce the performance achievement gap between disadvantaged and advantaged students in college introductory biology in an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), which includes students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Using courses taught by the same instructor, but different levels of active learning and assessment showed that highly structured courses with practice exams, peer instruction, and clicker questions increased student performance for all students, especially students in the EOP.  The strategy of providing students with a solid foundation of classroom structured activities, using daily exit quizzes helped provide them the ability to prepare for each daily lesson, excluding quizzes on lab days.

      The use of the “testing effect” by Roediger and Karpicke (2006) showed that repeated testing produced a large positive effect on long-term retention, while constant studying did not have an effect.  The use of short daily and weekly quizzes was offered to students in an anatomy course. Although conducted similar to Tanck’s study, after breaking student results into four categories, this study noticed that the results between daily and weekly quizzes had no difference on student achievement on summative anatomy exams.  However, the use of voluntarily formative online quizzes did correlate to higher scores on the summative exam (Palmen, Vorstenbosch, Tanck & Kooloos, 2015). Based on their results, they propose weekly quizzes as a more successful teaching technique for students success compared to daily quizzes.  The use of daily quizzes in this high school physical science study benefited a low percentage of students, but provided a benefit in classroom structure for both the instructor and the students.

      Pennebaker, Gosling, & Ferrell (2013) explored the improvements in student performance and decrease in achievement gaps between lower and upper-middle class students using daily online testing.  The growth of schools with the privilege to have a 1 to 1 student laptop ratio allows for instructors to incorporate various means of assessments and learning strategies in their classroom to find ways for his or her students to be successful.  Pennebaker et al. used four different classes of introductory Psychology courses.  One class was required to bring a Wi-Fi enabled device, while another class taught by the same instructors was not. Students completed a total of 26 quizzes of 8-mulitple choice questions, which made up 86% of students final grades. Overall, the results showed that the daily online quiz class achieved slightly lower grades, but due to a curve on each test of the other class the results may not show comparable results.  The selection to administer the quizzes at the beginning of the lesson compared to the end of the lesson makes students responsible for information presented in prior lessons, not exclusively the information presented in the lesson that day.  Similarly, the high school physical science class study did not show significantly improved results in the number of students showing master level in comparison to the other class, but did make strides toward helping students be responsible for information presented in each lesson.

      An effective way for students to be held responsible for information for the learning targets of each lesson is to implement daily exit pass quizzes.  The students in the 9th grade physical science class were not being held accountable each day, the exit pass had no meaning or value to them.  The student grades were entered at the end of each quarter so they were not provided any ongoing feedback nor could they see a positive correlation between their exit pass work and their overall grade. This study addressed how daily exit pass quizzes impact students’ performance on unit tests.  Applying the use of daily assessments allows students to receive positive immediate feedback and observe their results for their efforts put forth each day in class. 



            The participants for this study were all students in two different Physical Science classes from a large urban high school in northeast Ohio. Due to low socioeconomic status of the school district, each student at the high school receives free breakfast and lunch. There are a total of 2190 students in the high school.  The make up of students is broken down into 76.4% black, 18.7% white, 3.8% 2 or more ethnicities, 0.6% Hispanic, and 0.4% Asian. Both of classes were a direct reflection of the make up of the entire school. The 1st period class consisted of 28 students, with 6 on Individualized Education Plans. There were a total of 17 males and 11 females, where students were not administered daily exit quizzes.  In the 2nd period class of 24 students with 4 on Individualized Education Plans, there were 15 males and 9 females who received a daily exit pass quiz each lesson, other than on lab and test days. Within the 1st period class there were two students repeating the course as compared to 6 students in 2nd period, 3 of whom had the same instructor for the course the previous year.  This study addressed how daily exit pass quizzes impact students’ performance on unit tests.


            Prior to the intervention during the last 3-5 minutes of class, an exit pass activity was displayed on a smart board screen. Students recorded their answer on the same sheet of paper each day and then submitted this sheet every Friday.  Many students used a variety of means to avoid completing the exit pass sheet. Students began taking photographs of the overhead screen using their cellphones and completing the activity at a later or more convenient time, other students began breaking the academic code of honesty by simply copying classmates’ work, and some would also lose their exit pass sheet throughout the week. One incredibly important aspect of the existing exit pass activity was that students were not receiving any feedback for their daily progress and learning. 


Over a 10-day pilot period, the 2nd period Physical Science class received short 2-3 questions on a daily exit quiz during the last 8-10 minutes of class.  The quiz only covered the content that was specifically taught that day. Students in 2nd period were also given a 6-question survey following the 10-day pilot to gauge their opinion on the daily exit quizzes. The survey provided feedback on how many times students checked their results of the daily quizzes via the online grading site and used a Likert scale to gauge how students felt the daily exit quizzes help them master the material. Finally, using a Likert scale, students responded how they felt the daily exit quizzes prepared them for the unit test.  Although, filling out the surveys was voluntary and had no influence on students’ grades, most students completed them. The main difference between the 1st and 2nd period physical science classes was the strategy of how students were being held accountable for the learning targets each day and how the use of daily exit quizzes impacted overall unit test scores. 


            The intervention was to extend the daily exit quiz strategy to set daily learning expectations and assess the positive impact on mastery learning on unit tests. The transition from the 10-day pilot to the second semester intervention over 10 weeks provided continued structured learning and ongoing results. The intervention covered multiple testing units, and also allowed students to receive immediate feedback following each exit quiz to know both their score and the correct responses to each question on the quiz.  The scores of the quizzes were entered into the online grading site each day for Period 2 students, while the 1st period students did not receive a score from their exit quizzes until the end of each quarter.  The quizzes were administered on half sheets of paper and manually scored by the instructor following each class. The questions on the quizzes were not the same as the 1st period exit pass, nor were they identical to test questions, but both covered the same content. Questions on the quizzes ranged from multiple choice, true/false, diagram labeling, fill in the blank, and some simple math calculations.


Students’ unit test scores were recorded using the online system MasteryConnect, which determines the level of mastery learning of students ranging from no score, remediation, near mastery, and mastery for each section of the full unit. Period 2 students received daily feedback on quizzes and had the resource of using old quizzes to study prior to the unit test.  Attendance was recorded each day and students who were absent were exempt from the exit quiz, as to not be a detriment to their overall grade.  Students were provided copies of the exit quiz when they returned to class.          

            A student survey (Appendix A) was another instrument administered to Period 2 students to gain direct feedback about the intervention.  There were a total of 6 survey questions in regards to their opinions about the daily exit quiz strategy. There were a total of 28 students that participated in the study.  There was not a pre-survey administered to the students, only a post survey following the study.

            The last instrument used in this study was that students were also able to retake a unit test to improve learning, but relatively few chose to do so.  They could see their test scores online, but many did not elect to try to improve them with this instrument. The option for the test retake was implemented to help students master the specific content which gave them difficulty on the unit test.

            The overall plan for evaluating student performance was to observing the number of students in 2nd period that scored near mastery or mastery on different sections of the unit test as compared to 1st period students. The online results available to students, the student survey feedback and the number of quiz retakes provided insight into how the strategy of daily quizzes influenced student behavior and impact the student mastery learning.  The main interest from the survey was to measure responses to two specific questions, “Using a 1-5 scale, 5 being the quizzes helped A LOT and 1 being they did NOT help at all, these daily exit pass quizzes helped me master the material of the unit, please provide a number.” and “Using a 1-5 scale, 5 being the quizzes helped A LOT and 1 being they did NOT help at all, I feel the quizzes helped me prepare for the unit test, please provide a number.”  MasteryConnect was used to analyze the number of students who achieved mastery, near mastery, or remediation learning for each of the two unit tests collected. Lastly, from the number of students who elected to retake one of the tests, their final score will be reviewed next to their initial test score.


            The purposes of this study were to create a strategy to hold students accountable for mastering the day’s content objectives and evaluate the impact of daily quizzes on unit test results.  The daily quizzes, student surveys, and the number of students who used the test retake were used to assess understanding of the class content material in a physical science class of 24 students.  During the 10-day pilot, using a post unit test survey, 12 out of 18 students responded that the daily exit quizzes increased the amount of time they spent on physical science each day outside of class time.

            During the extended intervention, on unit test 10, there were 16% percent of students in 2nd period with the exit pass quiz intervention who displayed mastery level learning in section 10.2, as compared to 7% of students in 1st period class without the daily exit quiz.  Referring to Tables 4A and 3A, on the unit 18 test at the end of the intervention, 2nd period showed higher mastery level learning for both sections 18.2 and 18.3.  In 2nd period, 12% percent of students who achieved mastery level learning for section 18.2 compared to only 4% in the 1st period. For section 18.3 test, 28% of students achieved mastery learning compared to only 7% in 1st period. Although on section 18.3, the 1st period class without the exit quizzes had 47% of students achieving near mastery learning compared to only 20% in 2nd period.

            Of the students that who were in attendance following the exit quiz intervention, 15 of 18 responded to the post-survey, and all rated 3 or higher out of a maximum 5 that the daily exit quizzes helped them master the material and prepared them for the test. The other three students did not complete the survey or rated less than 3. This was a very positive response rate over 80% and almost half rating the intervention at 4 as very helpful.  Also in the survey responses, 11 of the 15 students reported that they checked their quiz scores online 5 or more times before the final unit test.

            The student test retake option was also available following both unit tests. Students were able to retake each section that they did not achieve the score they desired instead of the entire exam.  During the intervention, out of the 28 students in Period 2, only 6 elected to use the retake option to improve the score.  As shown on Table 5, five of those six students improved their score to mastery level learning and one maintained near mastery level learning.

Tables 1A and 1 B below show the results of 1st period students’ chapter 10 unit test without interventions. Table 1A shows the percentage of students in the class who achieved mastery; 10.1-25% and 10.2- 7%, near mastery; 10.1-28% and 10.2- 28%.  The remaining two sections represent the percentage of students who received remediation or no score.


            This study addressed how daily exit pass quizzes impact students’ performance on unit tests.  Through the use of Mastery Connect, student surveys, and the tracking of student test retakes, there was a slight increase in student mastery learning on unit tests in physical science.  In this urban Midwest high school, it is required that students pass physical science as their introductory level science course.  It was important to know that in the 1st period class there were two students repeating the course for a second time.  In 2nd period, there were a total of six students repeating the course, with three of the students having the same instructor for a second time.  This may have influenced the mastery learning results.

            Although based on a relatively small size of two classes, overall the qualitative results from student feedback and daily quiz retakes, and the resulting unit test performance, indicated the daily quiz strategies did have a positive impact on students learning the content of the 9th grade physical science material.

            The use of Mastery Connect was able to provide the exact number of students who were either achieving mastery learning, near mastery, remediation, or did not score at all.  Similar to the findings of Poljičanin et al. (2009), where daily quizzes increased the passing rate on the final exam from 39% to 62%, the 2nd period physical science class saw an increase in the number of students who achieved mastery learning in different sections of the test for unit 10 and unit 18.   The strategy of daily exit quizzes was successful in both studies as it held students accountable for specific learning targets or objectives in each lesson.  Students were able to review the concepts they struggled with after receiving quiz results and feedback.

            The post survey in this study used a Likert scale as a means of feedback to gauge student response from using daily exit quizzes.  On a scale of 1-5 students were asked, “how much do the daily exit quizzes prepare them for the test and help them master the content each day.”  Fifteen of eighteen students responded to the post-survey, and rated 3 or higher out of maximum 5 that the daily exit quizzes helped them master the material and prepared them for the unit tests. The remaining students either did not complete the survey or rated below 3 as not very helpful.  As an educator, receiving positive feedback from students about specific teaching strategies was insightful as it shows not only did they feel as if it having a positive impact on their learning, but also they were able to observe their results and positive impact on their overall unit test performances.  It is important for students to be encouraged by their daily performance and see the effectiveness of the learning strategies that can help them their future education success.

            Students had the option to use a form of retesting with the test retakes, which allows them to attempt only the portion of the test on which they scored remediation, instead of the entire exam.  Although only 6 of the 28 students elected to use the test retake option on one of the two unit tests, their overall scores increased.  The test retake option may not have impacted the use of daily exit quizzes, but allowed students to show progression and dedication to achieving scores they desired.  In an urban school district, students face many life challenges and sometimes a unit test in physical science may not be their biggest obstacle that day.  This option allows them to show their resilience and persistence by using the test retake.


            In this Midwest urban high school, one main limitation that had an impact on this study was the frequent lack of student attendance in the forms of absence or in school suspensions.  Students tardy more than 3 times in one week earn an in-school suspension causing them to miss an entire day of class. In addition, the school district does not provide transportation for students and the classes in the study were 1st and 2nd period.  Having low attendance on quiz days, but higher on unit test days could have had a negative impact on the number of students achieving mastering level learning for that unit test. In order to deal with absences, students were given the option to come after school or during their lunch period for tutoring in order to catch up on the information missed.  Also, students were given a copy of the exit quiz they missed in order to review the information they missed.

            One factor that may have had an influence on the success of this study was the 7 students who are repeating this course as 10th graders in a 9th grade science class. Although they initially failed the course, they have either previously heard or seen this information before.  Repeating the course gives these students some advantage compared to other students and may have impacted the level of mastery learning that was calculated by Mastery Connect on the unit tests.

            The intervention for this study was only implemented in Physical Science, lasting about 8 weeks,  and was able to obtain accurate data for only two specific unit tests. The length of this study was not long enough to conclude a concrete result for this specific small sample size.  If students were able to experience this daily accountability strategy and teaching method in other classes and for a longer period of time, more definitive results may be discovered.  If teachers across curriculum are able to work together in a school to apply this strategy, it may have even greater success in other classroom settings.



            For future research, in order to be more practical and user friendly, this daily quiz intervention could be implemented using student electronic devices.  With the ever-changing technology in our world, it is important to use it to its full potential to help both students and teachers be successful in the classroom.  Students would be able to receive immediate electronic feedback via online quizzes. Also, this would serve as a location to keep all the quizzes for each unit in one location to allow them to review, instead of handling multiple loose pieces of paper.

            Future research on using daily exit quizzes can be modified by recognizing student attendance in the performance results. Repetition of the course should also be taken into account. One aspect that should be considered is recording the relationship between the number of daily quizzes a student missed and their overall test scores.  The lack of consistent attendance would be detrimental to any student performance and impact the results of the study.

            Future research on student mastery learning should continue specifically in urban school settings. A staff that is able to observe the effectiveness of different learning strategies, driven from student data, and experienced teachers can help shape and increase student performance in different classrooms. If future research can be done in more content areas besides science, there may be strong evidence for using daily exit quizzes as an assessment for tracking student progress. Such data and analysis collected in large urban city school districts will be able to do more for students by helping staff and administrations understand and adjust to the needs of their school population. 


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[2] Pennebaker, J. W., Gosling, S. D., & Ferrell, J. D. (2013). Daily Online Testing in Large Classes: Boosting College Performance while Reducing Achievement Gaps. PLoS ONE,8(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079774

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[4] Haak, D. C., Hillerislambers, J., Pitre, E., & Freeman, S. (2011). Increased Structure and Active Learning Reduce the Achievement Gap in Introductory Biology. Science,332(6034), 1213-1216. doi:10.1126/science.1204820

[5] Palmen, L. N., Vorstenbosch, M. A. T. M., Tanck, E., & Kooloos, J. G. M. (2015). What is more effective: a daily or a weekly formative test? Perspectives on Medical Education4(2), 73–78.

[6] Roediger, H. L., & Karpicke, J. D. (2006). Test-Enhanced Learning. Psychological Science,17(3), 249-255. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.016