Research: Quizzes help readers recall fact-checked material

By Katalina Deaven

Center for Media Engagement

Austin, Texas, USA


By Raunak M. Pillai

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee, USA


By Lisa K. Fazio

Vanderbilt University

Nashville, Tennessee, USA


By Jessica R. Collier

Mississippi State University

Starkville, Mississippi, USA


Fact-checkers have a difficult job: They need to help readers comprehend and retain key details from fact-checked articles (which often address complex topics). They also need to help readers learn to evaluate whether claims they see or hear from other sources are true or false.

A new Center for Media Engagement study found online multiple-choice quizzes present an opportunity to encourage readers to engage with fact-checking content and help them learn.

Quizzes aid in recall but they are not a remedy for misinformation.
Quizzes aid in recall but they are not a remedy for misinformation.

Researchers conducted experiments to measure how the presence of a multiple-choice quiz influences peoples’ recall of key pieces of information from a fact check and their ability to accurately identify claims as true or false. The study builds on previous work from the centre that found quizzes can improve the time people spend reading news and their political knowledge.

The study found multiple-choice quizzes were effective at improving recall (even if people were quizzed on the details a week later) but did not lead to changes in whether people thought the claim from the fact check was true or false. The findings suggest quizzes may be a useful tool for newsrooms and fact-checking organisations to assess the effectiveness of fact-checked articles and determine whether readers are retaining the most useful and important pieces of information.

Quizzes as a tool for fact-checkers: the experiments

The Center for Media Engagement conducted three experiments to measure how the presence of a multiple-choice quiz influences peoples’ recall of key pieces of information from a fact check and their ability to accurately identify claims as true or false.

The first experiment focused on whether viewing a quiz before or after a fact check can improve recall of fact-checked details and help people identify whether the claim was false. Participants were shown one of two fact-checked articles about a piece of health misinformation (each claim was false).

The second experiment, aimed at figuring out whether quizzing people on the debunked claim itself can improve recall and accuracy, used the same health-related misinformation and a similar set-up as the first. But the quiz questions were more directly related to the false claim.

The third experiment set out to understand whether multiple-choice quizzes can reduce belief in misinformation. This study included both true and false claims for participants to read and evaluate. Political misinformation was also used to extend the findings beyond health misinformation.

All three experiments produced the same results:

  • Multiple-choice quizzes helped readers recall specific details from the fact check.
  • Even when quizzed a week later, people were more likely to recall details from the fact check if they were quizzed before or after reading it.
  • Multiple-choice quizzes did not help readers accurately identify a false claim (or in the case of the third study, a true or false claim).

What the findings mean for fact-checkers

Our research produced several important findings for fact-checking organisations and newsrooms implementing their own fact checks.

First, multiple-choice quizzes present a useful tool for fact-checkers aiming to improve peoples’ recall of the key details of a fact check. This finding seems especially useful for fact-checkers tasked with debunking complex topics like health or politics.

Across the three experiments, peoples’ recall of complex details from fact checks — such as “what is the blood-brain barrier?” — improved after receiving a quiz with the debunked claim. This effect lasted even when measured one week later. We recommend fact-checkers consider implementing quizzes as a means of helping the public digest and recall fact-checked information.

Second, multiple-choice quizzes are not a remedy for misinformation. Despite finding that quizzes aid in recall, they were not effective at changing peoples’ beliefs about whether a claim is true or false. Based on this finding, we still encourage fact-checking organisations and newsrooms to implement multiple-choice quizzes but acknowledge that they do have limitations.

Previous quiz research and the benefits for newsrooms

The Center for Media Engagement examined how multiple-choice quizzes and slider quizzes affect how people learn and how they feel about different types of quizzes. Compared to presenting factual information without an interactive feature, online slider and multiple-choice quizzes:

  • Increased the time people spent on the site.
  • Were seen as more enjoyable.
  • Helped people recall information.

Although both slider quizzes and multiple-choice quizzes had benefits, people were better able to recall and recognise information when using a slider quiz; with multiple-choice quizzes, people recognised information better than they recalled it.

A second study tested whether online quizzes about politics could spark interest in news and politics, and increase people’s intentions to engage politically.

After taking the quiz, participants answered questions about their interest in politics and political news, how politically knowledgeable they felt, and their intention to participate politically both online and offline. The results showed people who took a political quiz felt more politically knowledgeable and showed more interest in political news.

The findings shows news organisations can use quizzes to meet both business and journalistic goals. They allow newsrooms to test audience knowledge and can help identify topics of interest, potential stories, and information that should be shared more broadly.

Free quiz tool resource and tips for effective quizzes

The Center for Media Engagement offers a free quiz creator that helps news organisations make interactive, embeddable quizzes in four steps:

  1. Create: Name your quiz, add questions, and personalise your answer responses.
  2. Customise: Choose your colours, display options, and messages.
  3. Publish: Add to your site using the provided code.
  4. Analyse: Apply A/B tests to identify which quizzes are most effective.

Our research shows not all quizzes are created equally, however. Taking these recommended steps can help both newsrooms and audiences get the most out of quizzes:

• Add more than one question using different quiz formats to increase engagement.

• Present content that uses reliable public opinion estimates and factual, reputable data.

• Be on the lookout for statistical and numerical data that can be used to create quizzes.

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