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Students: Answering Formative Questions
Students: Answering Formative Questions

A guide for students on the technical aspects of answering questions.

Neta Raz Studnitski avatar
Written by Neta Raz Studnitski
Updated over a week ago

General guidelines and navigation

See our student resource article for accessing formatives, teacher-paced mode, navigating through sections, and checking your scores.

Basic question types you are probably familiar with include:

Multiple Choice

Select only one correct answer

Eliminate incorrect answers using our strikethrough feature.

Please note: the strikethrough will remain only while you are working on the question. If you navigate out of the formative and return to it later, your strikethrough markings will not appear

Multiple Selection

Select multiple correct answers

Eliminate incorrect answers using our strikethrough feature.

Please note: the strikethrough will remain only while you are working on the question. If you navigate out of the formative and return to it later, your strikethrough markings will not appear

True or False

Select one correct answer between True or False.

Short Answer

Type your response into the text field.

Free Response

Type your response in the form of an essay. Use our Styling and Hyperlinking menu bar to style your response, add attachements by clicking the little plus button within the text field. If your teacher enabled the feature, you can also view your word count. Your teacher may have also added a "Show Your Work" box to this question, or even added a grading rubric that you can view.

Formative has some more complex question types that you may not have seen before, so please use this guide to help you answer them! If you run into any issues, it's always best to ask your teacher for help first.


Your teacher will provide a prompt and then have items on the left side that need to be placed into categories on the right side.

You can either drag the item from the left side to the category on the right, or you can click on the 6 dots to the left of the item, then click on the blue plus sign under the category!

To change categories, just tap the "x" to remove the answer and send it back to the left side. Your teacher can create answers that don't fit in a category, or there may be more than one for each category, or an unused category!

Drag and Drop

Your teacher will present either text or an image with empty spaces, called "drop areas" to which you can drag and drop an answer. Answer choices will appear below the prompt.

The answer choices can also be text or images and they need to be moved into the correct drop areas.

You can drag the answer to the drop area by clicking and holding, then releasing onto the right spot, or you can click once on the answer to select it and then click once on the drop area where it should go.

If you want to remove your answer, just tap the "X" next to where you placed it in the prompt! It will return to the answer section and you are free to select it again and move it into any available space.

Here is an example animation for a drag and drop question with a text prompt:

Here is an example animation for a drag and drop question with an image prompt:

Note: Your teacher may provide more answer choices than drop areas or vice versa!

Troubleshooting Drag & Drop:

What if your drag and drop answer choices aren't "sticking" where you put them?

You may be on a slow network or have other software using up your bandwidth. Try this:

  1. Click and hold the answer you want to move,

  2. Drag it slowly to the place you want to drop.

  3. Wait for the color to change!

  4. Then release the mouse button to drop.


This type of question will have a prompt from your teacher and a number of options. Click and hold on the dots icon to the left of the answer you want to select, then drag it where it belongs in the order:


Matching questions will prompt you to drag and re-organize the tabs on the left column to match to the tabs on the right column. Click and hold the dots icon to the left of the tab you want to select, then drag it where it belongs.

Match Table Grid

You may have seen this question type on surveys or worksheets before. There will be rows and columns with radio buttons or checkboxes. Depending on your teacher's setting of this question, you may be able to select only one answer in each row, or multiple answers.

If the table containes circle radio buttons - you will need to select one choice from the radio buttons. You will not be able to de-select a radio button, but you can change it by clicking on a different answer in that row. You can only pick one in each row.

If the table containes square checkboxes - you will be able to select multiple choices in each row. You will also be able to deselect your choices.

Inline Choice

Your teacher will set up a prompt that has one or more drop-down menus. Click on the dropdown and select the answer from the list. If you need to change your answer, just click and select something else.

Fill In The Blank

Your teacher will set up a prompt that has one or more blank fields for you to fill out manually. Click inside the blank field to fill in your response. If your teacher intended for the answer to be a math equation or symbol, the in-app math keyboard will pop-up for you as soon as your click into the blank field. Otherwise, the answer will be text base and you will use your device's keyboard to enter it.

Hot Spot and Hot Text

For a "Hot Spot" question, your teacher will upload a picture or document and place clickable spots on it. Answer the prompt by clicking on a spot and a checkmark will appear. Once you've selected a spot, you can remove the checkmark by clicking again or you can leave it and continue the assignment.

The clickable areas can be dots, circles, squares, or rectangles. In the example below there are different shape and size clickable areas on 14 states and one Great Lake. In this example, the prompt is "Select Nebraska!" and the teacher has set this question to limit students to choosing only one answer, so clicking on a different state changes the location of the checkmark.

Your teacher may set up the question with multiple selection available, in which case you will have the option to checkmark more than one "spot".

Hot Text is similar! Your teacher will provide a prompt and there will be text box below. Anything selectable will be highlighted in blue and will become a darker shade of blue when you hover over it with your cursor. To select elements from the text as your answers to the prompt simply click on your selection(s). When selected, the word or phrase will have a rectangular border around it. Need to deselect it? Just click it again and the border will disappear.


A numeric question will open a math keyboard when you click into the answer space. You can use the buttons to create or answer equations in math and science classes. Navigate between the tabs for more functions and symbols. Long-press some of the buttons for additional functions. We have a whole article on how to use the math keyboard for numeric questions.

If the text turns red, it means you have not typed into all the available spaces (such as when writing out a fraction). The keyboard is not a calculator and won't do the math for you. It only provides the symbols to write your answer.

For questions without the dedicated math keyboard, you can also check out this LaTeX guide for ways to type symbols into your answers!

If your teacher enabled access to the integrated calculator in Formative, you will see the calculator icon at the bottom right corner of your screen. Click the icon to access the calculator. Click here for calculator tutorials

New Graphing Question

In this new version of the Graphing question type, responses are recorded directly within the graph!

  • Click the graph tab

  • Click on the graph background to add a point. You will need two points to create a graph. Drag a point or type in x and y coordinates to edit position. Click on a point to delete it.

If your teacher enabled access to the integrated calculator in Formative, you will see the calculator icon at the bottom right corner of your screen. Click the icon to access the calculator. Click here for calculator tutorials

File Response

You may have a prompt requesting that you upload a file. This can be a PDF or other document, an image, or a video. You can upload from your device or from Google Drive.

  • Click the "Upload New File Response" button to begin.

  • Select "Upload a file" or "Pick from Google Drive"

  • You may have to give Formative permission to access files on your device or your drive.

  • Navigate to your file and click "open"

In this example, the question has a rubric, which is linked from the left side under the question number!

(Please note that after clicking "Upload File," the user will be prompted to allow access to their device and then an explorer window will open to navigate to the file's location. This is not shown on the GIF above.)

Troubleshooting File Response:

👩‍🎓 I got an error:

  • The file must be under 100 megabytes.

  • Most file extensions are accepted but you may not upload .exe and some other types.

  • Make sure you have given permission for Formative to access your device or Google Drive.

  • Make sure you have a reliable internet connection.

👩‍🎓 I'm not sure I uploaded the correct file:

  • Click on the download button to the right of the file name to download and check it. This will not remove your file response, it will just download another copy so you can verify it's the correct one.

👩‍🎓 I uploaded the wrong file:

  • Just click on "Upload new file response" to select a new file. Please note you cannot delete the file you uploaded, only replace it with a different one.

👩‍🎓 I need to upload multiple files:

  • Formative does not support uploading multiple files for this question type. Ask your teacher for advice or assistance.

Audio Recording

You might be prompted to record audio for a question. For audio recording to work, you must have a microphone (such as the built-in one on your laptop) and you have to allow Formative to use it to record responses.

If this is your first time recording audio, there will be a prompt on your browser asking you to allow Formative to record sound and use your microphone. Select yes.

Read the question, then tap the "Record Audio Response" button to begin recording. It starts immediately and you'll see the button turn into a red "Recording..." notification. Tap on it when you're done!

You can playback your audio and if you aren't satisfied with it, tap the blue "Record New Audio Response" link to try again.

Troubleshooting Audio Recording:

What if the audio isn't recording and you don't hear anything on playback?

You may need to enable the microphone in two places: Your device (laptop, tablet, phone, or computer) and your browser (Chrome or Safari). (Also double check that your speakers are set up when playing back recordings!)

Video recording

Video recording works a lot like audio recording! Your teacher will provide a prompt and you'll have the option to record video using your device's camera, upload an existing video, or record your screen as you do work on your computer.

Record using your camera and microphone:

You have to allow Formative to access the device's camera (and microphone, if needed). You may have to allow access twice: Once for your browser and once for the device.

  • Click on the red circle to begin recording.

  • A countdown timer will tell you how much time you have left to record. The maximum time is ten minutes and it will count down from there.

  • You can adjust the position of the recording window slightly by using the six dots in the upper left.

  • You can play back the video and re-record as many times as you want!

  • Click "Add video" when you're finished. Once added, you can still change the video if you haven't submitted the assignment.

To upload a previously recorded video file, select "Upload a File." Give Formative permission to access files on your device, then the explorer window will pop up, allowing you to navigate to your file and select it.

Supported file types for video recordings are mp4, mov, webm, 3gpp, 3gpp2, flv, wmv, and mpeg. Videos must be 10 minutes or less.

Drawing / Show Your Work

Any time a Drawing question or the "Show Your Work" box comes up, your teacher is asking you to write, draw, type, highlight, measure, or otherwise show the work you've done on a whiteboard to answer the question.

To get started answering using a whiteboard, click on the "Show Your Work" button wherever you see it on a formative.

Once you are in the drawing / show your work box, you can read the question and click the down arrow icon to minimize it. This will give you more room to answer.

Your teacher may have an image, graph, or worksheet as the background for the whiteboard, or it could be blank.

You can use tools like lines or scribbles, shapes, writing text, and more!

Text Boxes, Math and Measurements

You can easily add text boxes to type answers into by clicking the T icon. Clicking the Math symbol will allow you to use a math keyboard to enter equations and math symbols!

You can even click the ruler icon and choose a straight ruler or a protractor to for measurements. These can be re-positioned and rotated on the whiteboard:

Line Options

By clicking the flat line at the top of the tool bar, you can control the size, color, thickness, and style of line. Use this menu to change the look of any drawing lines, shapes, and text that you type.

To make the pen into a highlighter, just change the color and adjust the slider so it's more transparent.

Tip: Once you change line color, the default is gray, not black

Upload an Image

Click on the image icon to add any image from your computer, Google Drive, or even your built-in camera! To add a photo from your phone's Photo Library, select "My Device".

Editing Options

You can easily change the size and shape of objects, images, and text, and rotate them with the "Select" tool.

Erasing items and getting more space to work

When you use the eraser tool, you can quickly delete any item on the drawing / Show Your Work whiteboard by clicking and swiping over them. Be careful to only erase the parts you want to erase!

Then, if you want more space to work, use the "Hand" tool to pan over to a blank space. Your teacher will still be able to see all of your work!

Finishing your work

When you are done, click on the blue checkmark in the upper right corner of the whiteboard. This will take you back to the main Formative screen. You will see a preview of all the work your teacher will see.

You can still edit it by clicking back into the drawing / Show Your Work box.

Note: Using the "back" button on your browser will take you back to your dashboard and exit the assignment, so always use the blue checkmark!

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