Blackboard: Using negative scoring in tests

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Blackboard Tests provide an option to deduct marks for selecting incorrect answers. This option can be used in Multiple Choice, Multiple Answer and Matching Questions.

Important information!

Carefully consider the possible impact of using negative marking in your test. It may lead to biased results that disadvantages groups who display 'risk adverse behaviour' this includes female and neurodiverse students.

How to enable negative scoring on a Test

Create your Test as usual:

·        Go to Control Panel > Course Tools > Tests, Surveys & Pools.

Drop down menu and Edit of a test canvas


·        Click on Tests then choose Build Test

·        Enter a Title and (optionally) description and instructions.

In the Test Canvas, click on Question Settings.

Question Settings button in top right of test canvas

This page enables a variety of useful features. The ones with which we are concerned here are under the section labelled Scoring.

Highlighting the partial and negative scoring options in Scoring

If you wish to assign negative marks, you first need to select ‘Specify partial-credit options for answers’.

You will then see the option to select ‘Specify negative points options for answers’.

Press Submit, and return to the Test Canvas.

How to define negative scores for individual questions

Use Create Question to add questions:

Create Question menu in left of Test canvas screen.

or Edit an existing question.

Chevron and drop down menu for editing a test question

For each question where you wish to assign any form of partial credit and/or negative marks, when editing the question you need to tick on ‘Allow Partial Credit’ in the Options section.

When you tick this, the option appears to ‘Allow Negative Scores for Incorrect Answers’.

Screen shot of Test text editor with partial credit box checked.

Then, for each wrong answer you can enter a figure in the Partial Credit box.

Test answer text editor with Partial credit amount added

Important information!
The on-screen text says:
Indicate percentage of points possible that should be assigned when this option is chosen. A negative percentage in this field will reduce the student's overall grade for the test in which this question is used.



(Where 10 marks have been allocated for a correct answer)

50       assign half of the available marks for this question, for a partially-correct answer

i.e. 5 marks

-50       deduct half of the available marks for this question from the student’s score

i.e. –5 marks

-100     deduct all of the available marks for this question from the student’s score

i.e. –10 marks


Helpful tip!
It is not possible to deduct a percentage higher than 100.