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Allowing students to X amount of questions but still getting max score

I am a TA for a class. The teacher wants me to convert their physical quizzes to Canvas Quizzes. The problem I am having is that the quizzes are 100 points each, 27 questions each, each question being 4 points. That totals to 108, the teacher wants it to act as a way that students can get two questions wrong while still getting a max score of 100 but not being able to go over 100.

For example if I got 25/27 questions right I would get the max score of 100. But if I got 27/27 I would still only get a max score of 100 (they don't act as extra credit).

I have tried finding a way to do this besides manually discounting for the 8 points at the end of the class but have not been able to so any help would be appreciated.

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9 Replies
Community Coach
Community Coach

Hi  @cardonfry ​...

Have you tried creating two separate with 25 questions at 4 points each, and another with two questions at 4 points each?  The second quiz might have to be set up as non-graded, but at least then the instructor could still see whether or not the questions were answered correctly.  Would this option work?

Community Team
Community Team

 @cardonfry , I'm racking my brains on this one, and as far as I can figure out,  @chofer ​ has given you the only solution that doesn't involve any manual grading and fudging. Would the teacher be willing to present the students a quiz that randomly selects 25 out of the 27 questions? True, not every student would answer every question, but since the random selection is a large number out of an only slightly larger pool, nearly all students would get nearly all questions. If you would consider designing the quiz this way, you'd need to create a single question group within the quiz; the question group should be set to pick 25 questions at 4 points each. Then, drag and drop all 27 questions into the question group; remember to click the Create Group, Save, and Publish buttons as appropriate. For more information on this, please refer to the lesson from the Canvas Guides on question groups and randomizing questions: How do I create a Quiz with a Question Group to randomize quiz questions?


 @cardonfry ​

Props to both  @chofer ​ and stefaniesanders​ for attempting to answer this difficult question.

Unfortunately, I think both of their responses miss the point.

The teacher wants the students to be able to miss any two questions and still get 100%. Neither solution does that.

Chris' solution decides which two questions they can miss without hurting their grade. Stefanie's solution only asks them 25 questions, so they don't get to miss any.

However, Cardon, you don't need to wait until the end of the semester to manually discount the 8 points. Besides, taking a blanket 8 points off the total won't actually fix your problem, you would still need to go through student by student and decide who needs points removed.

However, if can use Excel, here's how you can accomplish what you want. It involves making changes to a gradebook using a spreadsheet. The Canvas Guides explain the general principles of changing the grades in a spreadsheet How do I upload changes to the Gradebook? but won't address your specific situation. Read on to find how to do that.

In both situations, it is important that you convey to the students that the scores will be adjusted but the process is done manually.

Using a Weighted Gradebook

This is the recommended approach if it can be done.

  1. Create a category called "raw exams" (or something similar) and another called "exams". Make the raw exams category worth 0% of the grade. Note that non-graded material seems to appear in the Coming Up list but not in the To Do list, so there may be some education and reminders that need to go the students to be sure and take the exam.
  2. Create two assignments for the exam.
    1. One of them should be worth 100 points, be no submission or on paper, and go into the exams category. This is the final version of the grade. For purposes of illustration, let's call it exam 1.
    2. The other should be a quiz, worth however many points the quiz is worth (27 or 108 in this case), and go into the raw exams category. For purposes of explanation, let's call it raw exam 1.
  3. After the exam is done, go the gradebook and export the grades in Excel.
  4. For safety purposes delete all columns after the identifiers (from column F on) except for the two columns raw exam 1 and exam 1. (see note 1 for why)
  5. In the exam 1 column, set up a formula that refers to the raw exam 1 column. For example, if the exam 1 is in column F and the raw exam 1 is in column G, then you could enter the following in cell F3
    1. If your raw exam 1 was worth 100 points, then you would type =MIN(100,G3) in cell F3
    2. If your raw exam 1 was worth 27 points, then you would type =MIN(100,4*G3) in cell F3. (see note 2)
  6. Copy the formula in cell F3 down for each student.
  7. Save the gradebook as a .CSV file
  8. Go into the gradebook and import the grades back into Canvas.

This approach has the benefit that you can see how the students did on the overall exam, not just the adjusted score. However, it requires a weighted gradebook so that you can put the original exam into a non-graded category. Regrading a question won't be an issue using this technique and you might be able to just go through and change the affected students manually without repeating the entire process.

Using an Unweighted Gradebook

If you have an points-based, unweighted gradebook, things are tougher and potentially problematic. You are strongly encouraged to make a copy of their original scores somewhere as they will be lost in this process and they are not easily recoverable.

Some people use points to weight their gradebook without understanding that's what they're doing. So it may be possible to change to a weighted gradebook to get the benefits of that method. Some faculty say "I don't weight my gradebook, I use points. There are 4 exams worth 100 points each, 10 quizzes worth 20 points each, a midterm and a final both worth 200 points." But what they have just described is a weighted gradebook: exams are worth 40%, quizzes are worth 20%, and major exams are worth 40%.

Anyway, despite all my cautions against doing this, here's how you can do it with an unweighted gradebook.

  1. Create the exam so that it is worth 100 points. That means that each question would need to be 4*25/27 = 100/27 points each.
  2. After the exam is done, go the gradebook and export the grades in Excel.
  3. For safety purposes delete all columns after the identifiers (from column F on) except for the original quiz scores (see note 1 for why).
  4. The original scores are now in column F, starting in cell F3.
  5. Type the formula =MIN(100,1.08*F3) into cell G3. (see note 3)
  6. Copy this formula down for all of the students
  7. Starting in cell G3, select all the values in column G. Do NOT select the column, just the values. Choose Copy (Ctrl-C).
  8. Now, go back to cell F3 and choose Paste Special - As Values. (Alt-E S V enter). Do not simply paste, that will paste the formula, not the value.
  9. Delete column G.
  10. Save the gradebook as a .CSV file
  11. Go into the gradebook and import the grades back into Canvas.

This approach has the benefit that there is only one grade in the gradebook, but you lose the original scores on the quiz when you do this. Regrading a question will potentially be an issue of students getting the 8% adjustment every time a question is regraded (see note 4).


  1. I highly recommend deleting all columns except for the one's you're changing the grades for. Students might be working on other assignments in the few minutes it takes to download the gradebook, enter the formula, and save the file, and upload the grades. Although there is a review process before grades are accepted, you might miss one of these in your haste to be done with this.
  2. I actually recommend making each question on the quiz worth 1 point. Then the students don't get as confused by "I had 108, now I only have 100." To the teachers, a 27 is 108, but to the students, seeing a score of 27/27 sounds like they got 100%, so when they end up with 100%, that's what they expected. However, if you make it worth 108 points, then it sounds like lost points when they end up with 100. The people who got 23/27 and forget about the two questions being thrown out are pleasantly surprised when their 23/27 = 85% becomes 23/25 = 92%.
  3. The 1.08 is 27/25. What we're doing is multiplying everyone's original score by 108%. Then we're applying the MIN() function to it to get the smaller of their score or 100, so that they can never exceed 100.
  4. Depending on whether Canvas regrades all students or just the ones who had the changed answer (that's my guess), you can't apply this process described in the unweighted gradebook more than once. For students who were regraded, it would reset their score and they would get 108% of their original value, capped at 100%. But for the others that it didn't reset their grade, it would multiply their grades by 108% twice, so they would really be getting 116.64% of their original values, still capped at 100%.

I hope this helps. It can be done, but there is a little extra work involved as the functionality is not built into Canvas.

Community Coach
Community Coach

What  @James ​ came up with is slightly complicated, but brilliant!

I'd like to add one little idea out there if you are using an unweighted (points based) gradebook and would like to retain the integrity of the original quiz/quiz scores. After the students are done taking the quiz and you've downloaded and adjusted the scores, so between steps 10 & 11, you can switch the original quiz from a graded quiz to a practice quiz. This leaves the quiz and student responses intact, the only thing it does is removes it from the gradebook. You could then upload the updated quiz scores as a new assignment.

You could actually do this as well for the weighted gradebook option instead of moving the original (raw) quizzes to a zero weight assignment group. This would remove the quizzes from the gradebook (so possibly less confusion for the students), yet, as James mentioned you would definitely want to let the students know what's going on and how things will work! Far better to let them know ahead of time then get a ton of freaked out student emails after the fact!

Hope this helps!

Community Coach
Community Coach

doh-left-my-brain-in-the-fridge-again.jpgOh, good call,  @James !  You're right...I didn't catch that my solution wouldn't allow for 25 random questions to be answered.  Thanks for catching that.


 @kona ​,

I had looked at practice quizzes, graded surveys, and ungraded surveys before coming up with what I suggested, but I looked at them on the front end, not the rear.

For purposes of my understanding and for clarification, do I understand the following correctly?

  • If you remove the grade from the gradebook, then you would have to go into moderate quiz (or quiz statistics and download the results) to find the results on the quiz.
  • Since you're removing it from the gradebook, it removes the ability to regrade questions and apply the Excel trick. You would have to change it back to to graded and/or download the Student Analysis from the quiz statistics. That may include multiple attempts, so then you need to go through and find the correct one (highest, latest, average, etc). Basically, try really hard not to regrade.
Community Coach
Community Coach

 @James ​, yes, you are correct in your understanding. That's why I didn't suggest switching the quiz from graded to practice until after you've done everything you need to do with it.

Learner II

This used to work in Canvas before a 'cough' bug fix.

You could simply wait until all the students took the quiz then add a question worth negative points. In this case make it worth -2 points and then Shazzam, students could miss 2 questions and still get a 100%.

This happened in the Canvas Production Release Notes (2015-08-08)

I noticed this too late and pleaded the use case for allowing this, but sadly I was not successful Smiley Sad

I guess we could start a feature request to get something like this back.

Community Coach
Community Coach

 @cardonfry ​, the Community provided a number of possible work arounds for what you were trying to do. Did any of these work for you?