Choose Your Own Homework Assignments

The Assignment Creation wizard

The Assignment Creation wizard lets you create or copy new homework, quizzes, and tests.

To create an assignment, go to the Homework/Test Manager and select how to create your assignment. You can create assignments in a number of ways.

Copy and edit a sample assignment

To copy and edit a single sample assignment:

  1. From the assignments filter in the toolbar, select the type of assignment you want to create: Homework or Quizzes & Tests.
  2. If you choose Homework or Quizzes & Tests, a table of sample assignments appears at the bottom of the page:
    • For homework assignments, choose the chapter or unit from the chapters filter to get a list of sample homework in that chapter.
    • For tests and quizzes, all the sample assignments are listed. You can click Set Availability above the table to suppress the test from the students' view.
  3. From the Actions dropdown list for the assignment you want, select Copy.

You also can copy and assign multiple sample assignments at one time and optionally set due dates automatically. See Assign multiple sample assignments for details.

After you choose how to create your assignment, the Assignment Creation wizard helps you set up the assignment.

Step 1: Start

In step 1 of the wizard, you define your assignment.

Gradebook Category - Shows the Gradebook category you selected for the assignment you want to create or copy. You can change a test to a quiz and vice versa.

Unit - If your institution uses a unit-based learning management system (LMS), choose the unit that the assignment belongs to from the dropdown list.

If your MyLab and LMS gradebooks are synchronized, the Send to LMS option on the Change Weights page determines whether results for this assignment are sent to your LMS gradebook. (This option is not available when you sync overall scores to your LMS gradebook.) See Share results with your LMS gradebook for details on gradebook synchronization.

Name - Enter a name for the assignment.

Test and quiz options

If you are creating a test or quiz, you have the following choices:

  • Assign a companion Study Plan as a prerequisite for this test - Select this checkbox to automatically generate and assign a companion Study Plan as a prerequisite to the test or quiz so that students must practice the material before taking the test or quiz.

    When you choose this option, step 4 is added to the wizard so you can customize the companion Study Plan coverage and mastery requirements.

    See Assign the Study Plan as a prerequisite for details.

  • Create using the online test bank - Click this option to create an assignment from scratch, using the publisher questions available in your course and any custom questions you have created.
  • Upload an existing test created in TestGen - Click this option to upload a TestGen test into your course.

    Note: TestGen tests delivered in the TestGen player are not compatible with the Pearson Lockdown Browser, are not accessible, and do not support work on mobile devices.

These options do not appear when you are copying and editing a sample test.

Homework options

You can create a personalized homework assignment that includes only the material that the student has not mastered, based on the results of a prerequisite test or quiz.

To create personalized homework:

  1. Select Yes, omit questions from objectives that were mastered in test/quiz to personalize the homework assignment.
  2. Choose the prerequisite test or quiz from the dropdown list. Tests delivered in the TestGen player and tests with results cannot be used as prerequisites.

See Create personalized homework for details on working with personalized homework.

If your course offers adaptive practice, you can choose Yes, give additional coaching and targeted practice with the SkillBuilder Adaptive Help. When this option is selected, students can access Skill Builder Adaptive Practice while they do the assignment. Skill Buildermonitors your students' progress and offers adaptive help when a student needs it. See About Skill Builder Adaptive Practice for details.

Click Next to go to step 2.

Step 2: Add/Remove Content

In step 2 of the wizard, you select questions to add to your assignment or review and make changes to existing content.

If available in your course, you can click Change next to the name of your textbook to add questions from related textbooks. See Add questions from other textbooks for details.

If you are copying a test delivered in the TestGen player, the wizard provides you with two options for reviewing content. Click Download to download the test you are copying to your hard drive. You can then view and edit the content using the TestGen application. Click Preview to launch the TestGen player and preview the test as students see it.

The Available Questions list displays questions that you can select for your assignment. The questions displayed in this list depend on the sources you chose for your questions (e.g., custom questions). You can filter the list to show or hide of questions.

Filtering questions by chapter or standard

Choose your selection criteria:

  • In all courses, you can use the Chapter, Section, and (if applicable) Objective dropdown lists to filter the questions in the Available Question list. Only the questions associated with your selected levels are displayed.
  • In courses based on standards, you see the Standard View tab, which lists the questions by associated standard and benchmark. You can use the Standard and Benchmark dropdown lists to filter the questions in the Available Questions list.

    In standards-based courses, you can click the Chapter View tab to select additional questions by chapter.

You view and add questions to your assignments from one chapter or standard at a time. To create assignments that include questions from multiple chapters or standards, select a chapter or standard, add questions, then select and add questions from a new chapter or standard, and repeat the process for as many chapters or standards as you need.

Filtering available questions

The Availability dropdown list lets you choose:

  • All questions to display all available questions for your selected level.
  • Questions that are not in the Study Plan to hide the questions that are available in students' Study Plans.
  • Questions that are in the Study Plan to show only questions that are available in students' Study Plans. You can control which questions are available in the Study Plan using the Study Plan Manager.
  • Questions that are screenreader accessible to show only questions that can be read by a screen reader such as JAWS
  • Questions on companion test to show only the questions on the prerequisite test for a personalized homework assignment. This option appears only when you are creating personalized homework. See Create personalized homework for details.
  • Questions from objectives/sections on the companion test to show only the questions related to objectives or sections covered by the prerequisite test for a personalized homework assignment. This option appears only when you are creating personalized homework. See Create personalized homework for details.
Filtering the sources of available questions

On the top right of the page, check the options for the types of questions you want shown in the Available Questions list. Options appear only when they are applicable to your course.

  • Show publisher questions displays all the pre-defined questions available for your textbook for the chapter, section, and/or objective you selected.
  • Show custom questions (+) for this book displays any custom questions you created and associated with the textbook used in the course that are available for the selected chapter, section, and objective. This option is not available when you are adding questions from related textbooks.
  • Show other custom questions displays questions you have created for other textbooks or that have no textbook association. You can click Refine Selection to display only those custom questions that meet criteria you specify. This option is not available when you are adding questions from related textbooks.
  • Create my own questions opens the Custom Question Builder, where you can author your own questions to add to assignments. See Create your own questions for details.
  • Show additional test bank questions displays questions that come from the TestGen test bank. These questions have been converted so they run natively in the player that comes with your course, rather than requiring the TestGen plug-in. This option is not available in some courses.
  • Show sample homework questions displays "bookmatch"or "book/static" and "practice" homework questions for some accounting courses. See Select accounting questions for details.
  • Show interactive questions displays interactive questions if they are available in your course.
Adding media to homework assignments

When you are creating a homework assignment, you see Question and Media tabs above the list of available questions. Click the Media tab to choose media, such as animations or videos. You can choose the publisher's media or add your own. You also can add follow-up questions for your students to answer after they have viewed the media.

In some courses, you also can assign additional media, such as simulations or multiplayer games.

To add media to your homework, click the Media tab above the Available Questions list to see a list of the media available for your selected chapter, section, or objective (if applicable).

The icon to the right of the media name shows the type of media (for example, a video or animation). The icons are defined in the Media Type list on the upper right or you can move your mouse over an icon to see the type of media.

The Media Type list lets you select what types of media are shown in the Available Media list. Check a box to show that type of media in the Available Media list. If you chose gradable simulations or games in step 1, you can select only one type of media.

You also can click Add my own media to add external media to your assignment.

See Add media to homework assignments for details on how to include media in a homework assignment.

See About assignable media for information on the kinds of media available for homework assignments.

Getting question information

After you have chosen which questions are available, you can choose the questions to add to your assignment.

The questions you can choose are listed in the Available Questions list on the left. The questions you have chosen are listed in the My Selections list on the right.

Both lists offer several kinds of information about the questions:

  • Question identifiers and value: The number of the question in your textbook. In the My Selections list, you also see the order number in the assignment, the associated book objective or section, the estimated amount of time for students to work the question, and a default point value.
  • Difficulty level: If available for your course, you see an icon that indicates the difficulty of the question based on question metrics, for example, . The more bars, the more difficult the question. You can click the sort icon in the table header to sort the questions by difficulty.

    In accounting courses, the difficulty icon is replaced by an icon () that indicates the median amount of time that students took to answer the question. The amount of fill in the icon increases with the amount of time the question will take your students. You can click the sort icon in the table header to sort the questions by time.

    Move your mouse over the icon to see a tooltip that tells you the difficulty rating, median time spent by students on the question, and the percentage of students who answered correctly on the first try.

    You can see the total estimated time for the assignment in the header above the My Selections list. You can see the total number of questions at each difficulty level by clicking View question details above the My Selections list.

  • Type of question: Icons following the question number identify the question type. For example, for essay questions, for graphing questions, (tb) for questions from the TestGen test bank, for questions that are screenreader-accessible, when review-only information is available for the question, and so on. Move your mouse over the icon to see a tooltip that tells you the question type.

    Accounting courses have a unique, flexible system for categorizing homework assignments in the test bank or sample homework. See Select accounting questions for an explanation of the types of questions available in accounting courses.

    Some economics questions pull real-time data from FRED (the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis). These questions are marked with the icon. See Econ: real-time data questions for details.

    Some business courses include Mini Sims, simulation exercises where students make decisions about real-world business challenges. These questions are marked with a blue arrow icon . See Business: Mini Sims for details. Other courses may also offer autograded Excel projects, which are marked with a green X icon . See Autograded Excel projects for details.

  • Thumbnail preview: Move your mouse over a question ID to see a tooltip that displays a thumbnail image of the question.
  • Full preview: Click a question ID to preview it in the player, where you can work the question, see the correct answer, view question details, and choose whether to include the question in the assignment.
  • Question source: If you have added questions from related textbooks, you see an asterisk in front of the question number. When you move your mouse over these questions, the thumbnail image shows you which textbook contributed the question.
Adding questions to your assignment

The My Selections list on the right shows the questions you have added to your assignment. To add questions from the Available Questions list, you can:

  • Check the individual questions you want to include or click the All box to select all the questions in the list. Then click Add to move the selected questions to the My Selections list for your assignment.
  • Preview questions in the player and choose whether to add them to the assignment. Select the questions you want to view and click Preview & Add to preview and add the questions you want to your assignment. If none of the questions in the Available Questions list is selected, Preview & Add lets you preview the entire list. See Preview questions for details on how to use the player in preview mode.

If you are creating a personalized homework, all available questions (including all questions from question pools) from the prerequisite test or quiz are already entered in the My Selections table. Not all test questions are available to assign for homework. See Create personalized homework for details on working with personalized homework.

Managing your selections

The My Selections list shows the questions that will appear in your assignment. You can reorder these questions, change their point values, or group them into question pools.

Point values - To change the point value for a question, enter a new value in the text box on the right side of the row. In some courses, questions have fixed point values.

The sum of the point values in your MyLab assignment is the same as the "Points Possible" in the Gradebook of some learning management system Gradebooks. If you have integrated your LMS and MyLab Gradebooks and, for example, you want your assignment to have a point value of 20 in the LMS Gradebook, the total number of points for the assignment must be 20 in your MyLab assignment.

Some questions require students to complete multiple parts, and partial credit is given for each part the student answers correctly. So if a question is worth 10 points and has two parts, each response part is worth 5 points. If you change the point value of the question, the value credited for each correct response is changed proportionally. So, using the preceding example, if you change the value of the question from 10 points to 7 points, each response part is worth 3.5 points.

Pooling options - To increase the variation of questions on tests or quizzes, you can create question pools. A question pool contains multiple exercises that are associated with a single question on the test. When a student opens a pooled question on the test, he or she sees only one of the exercises contained in the pool. You can enable pooling for your test by clicking the Pooling options link at the top of the My Selections list. See Using question pools in tests for details on using pooling on your tests.

Click View question details at the top of the My Selections list to go to the View Question Details page where you can view a list of the questions in your assignment. From this page you can choose what question help is available for individual questions. Depending on your course, you also can assign point values to multiple questions, specify how much credit students can get for unsimplified answers, set answer tolerances, or specify the number of times students can check their answers before being marked incorrect.

To remove one of more questions you can:

  • Select the questions and click Remove to delete them from the assignment.
  • Select the questions and click Preview & Remove to view the questions and decide whether to remove them. See Preview questions for details on how to use the player in preview mode.
  • Select the questions and click the trash can icon below the list.

View student homework/test/quiz - Click this button to see the assignment as your students see it.

 "up arrow" or "down arrow" - Check one or more questions under My Selections, then click the up- or down-arrow buttons to move the selected questions one position at a time.

Sort All - Click this button to order the questions by ID in ascending order. If you are using question pooling for a test or quiz, pooled exercises are grouped together.

Click Next to go to step 3.

Step 3: Choose Settings

In step 3 of the wizard, you choose settings for your assignment, such as start and end dates. The wizard shows different settings depending on the type of assignment you are creating or copying:

Click Save to save your assignment without making it available to students. Or click Save & Assign to save it and make it available to students. Students will see the assignment on the start date you specify.

The assignment is added to the end of the assignment list on the Homework/Test Manager page. You can reorder assignments in the list. By default, the assignment has a weight of 10 points. You can change the assignment weight from the Gradebook.

Step 4: Define Companion Study Plan

Step 4 of the wizard appears only when you select Assign a companion Study Plan as a prerequisite for this test in step 1.

By default, a companion Study Plan includes only the sections or objectives covered by the test or quiz, but you can modify the coverage and the number of mastery points needed to meet the prerequisite.

At the top of the page, you see:

  • Total available mastery points - The number of possible points that students can earn on the companion Study Plan.
  • Minimum mastery points required - The number of points the student must achieve to prove mastery of the companion Study Plan material and thus become eligible to take the associated test or quiz. You can enter a different number in the box to change this requirement.

The table lists the sections or objectives included in your course. Checked boxes appear next to sections, objectives, and questions that are covered in the companion Study Plan.

Click the name of a chapter, section, or objective to see the level below. To expand the entire table of contents, click Expand All at the top of the table.

Check any item that you want to include on the companion Study Plan and uncheck an item to exclude it. When you remove a level, any sublevels it contains are also removed.

See Assign the Study Plan as a prerequisite for details on working with companion Study Plans.

See also:

Add media to homework assignments

Add questions from other textbooks

Edit publisher questions

Import assignments

Preview questions

Upload TestGen tests



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The best way to make sure homework is valuable, meaningful, and engaging to students is to — you guessed it — let students assign their own homework.

Grant Lichtman recently shared a white paper via Twitter, titled Changing the Conversation About Homework from Quantity and Achievement To Quality and Engagement.  It notes that:

… the questions [about homework] that seem to be the most critical are asked infrequently: What is the quality of the homework that is being assigned? Is the homework valuable and meaningful to students? Does the homework serve to engage students more deeply with the material?

I started 2014 thinking in depth about the question of homework because my good friend Bo Adams wrote a compelling blog post about homework at the end of 2013 that has been running around in my head ever since he wrote it (thanks, Bo!)

Please click above to read Bo’s piece — as well as the more than 20 responses it generated (it looks like more than 40 people because Bo provided a thoughtful response to each person who took the time to write on his blog — that’s the kind of guy he is).

Bo’s post contrasts a typical assignment — of the “do problems 1-19 odd” variety — with a more open-ended 10-day assignment that guides students through an exploration of the essential question “what is beauty?”

Grant Lichtman reported about the first five people who responded to Bo’s post, and titled his piece Do You Have Discussions Like This At Your School?

Grant notes that the discussion on Bo’s blog happened among a diverse group of educators:

None of these educators work at the same school.  They are loosely connected through Twitter and the blogosphere and are powerfully connected through the sharing of ideas and thinking…which makes them an equally powerful force for their own work, every day.

Let’s think about what it means for 20 people to comment on Bo’s blog in a meaningful way … and let’s connect that phenomenon to the idea of choice in homework.

All 20+ people who engaged virtually with Bo (including at least one of his former 8th grade students) chose to do so.  Nobody “assigned” them to read Bo’s post and comment on it.  They did so because they were interested.  They value Bo and his ideas.

So here’s my thought: let’s quit assigning all students the same homework assignment all the time.  I’m all for a thoughtful assignment of the sort Bo posits when he suggests a 10-day exploration of “what is beauty?”

But on a day-to-day basis, what if we tried the radical concept of letting students assign themselves homework that they find meaningful?

This is actually how we will approach homework at TLC Middle School (opening in fall 2014):

Before leaving school at the end of the day, each student will have to explain, in writing, what she or he is doing for HW, as well as the rationale for the homework.

We won’t start the year this way — this is a major cultural shift for students (and teachers and parents) — but by January or February, I’d expect sixth graders to be able to assign themselves homework that is both meaningful and appropriately challenging.

To make this more concrete, I’ve made up four students — here’s what their individualized homework might look like on a given evening:

Bobby is working on understanding negative exponents — he learned about the concept recently and is intrigued by it.  He will spend at least 50 minutes learning and writing about that concept.  He plans to start by watching this 7-minute Khan Academy video about negative exponents.  He will also read The Hobbit for 30-40 minutes, because he’s enjoying reading that book on his own.

Julie is going to follow up on the discussion we had when we read an article during our morning news session.  She’s intrigued by the Polar Vortex (who isn’t?), and wants to make a short video by the end of next week that explains the Polar Vortex in a way that’s compelling for middle and high school students.  She will work on this project for an hour to an hour and a half tonight.  Two resources she has identified are this short piece from NPR, and these pictures of how Niagra Falls froze from The Guardian.  She will also review her vocabulary words and learn at least 10 new vocab words — the vocab work will take her about 40 minutes — she will do this on the bus to and from her volleyball game.

Marco was intrigued by the discussion earlier in the week about the dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  He’s especially intrigued by how the Enola Gay got away from the blast in about 45 seconds — how fast was it traveling?  What are the physics behind dropping a big bomb, pivoting 155 degrees, and getting away as quickly as possible?  Sources he’s identified are this discussion thread and this explanation of why the Enola Gay made a 155 degree turn, rather than a 180 degree turn:

Marco is also reading the classic “Hiroshima,” an account by John Hersey.  That piece is available online at

Marco has already read pp. 1-9 (chapter one) and plans to read at least chapter two (pp. 9-22) by the end of the week.

Marco’s 3-week long project that he’s working on with two classmates will be a multidisciplinary look at the use of atomic weapons in warfare, with a focus on the ethics, physics, biology/genetics, and geopolitics of the bombings.

Anais is following up on our discussion of World War II (where Marco learned about the bomb).  She has relatives who live in Ethiopia and she was fascinated to learn that Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and the world community’s lack of response to that invasion, likely emboldened Hitler to break the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and rearm Germany.  She’s going to explore this issue in more depth tonight and will write about what she learns on her blog.  She will start by reading and asking questions about this Wikipedia article —

She also wants to do an oral history with her grandparents, who grew up in Ethiopia and now live in Kenya.  She has scheduled a Skype session with her grandparents and will talk with them next weekend.  She is curious to learn what they remember learning about the Italian occupation of Ethiopia.  They once met Haile Selassie, and she wants to ask them questions about their impressions of him.  As background to prepare for this interview, she will read this Wikipedia article — — and identify a short biography of Selassie in the local library to read.

As a common assignment, Bobby, Julie and Marco will each read Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” for the first time by next Friday, so that we can discuss it on the Friday before MLK Day, Jan. 17.  Anais has already read the letter and participated in a discussion about it last year.  She will lead our discussion on Friday, Jan 17, and will prepare essential questions to pose to the group by Wednesday, Jan 15 (that’s MLK’s actual birthday — he would be 85 years old).

That’s homework that each of these students will care about and engage with.

So here’s your homework, dear reader 🙂 —

I’d love comments/feedback/suggestions.  Is this sort of individualized homework possible/desirable?

Like this:



About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.

View all posts by Steve Goldberg →

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