How to Create Question Items

The ‘Item Authoring’ section of Surpass is where all test items (questions and non-questions) are created. This article explains the process for creating question items in Surpass. For further information about individual question types, please refer to the Surpass Help Site, which can be accessed by selecting the question mark icon at the top-right of any page.

Step 1: Select a subject

From the Surpass homepage, navigate to the ‘Item Authoring’ section by selecting the ‘Item Authoring’ tab at the top of the screen.

The ‘Item Authoring’ screen shows a list of subjects for which you have been given ‘Item Authoring’ permissions.

Select the subject where you want to create items.

Note: As items must be associated with a subject, you should have already created a subject (or had a subject created for you if you lack the necessary permissions) in the ‘Setup’ section of Surpass. However, you do have the option to create a new subject from the ‘Item Authoring’ screen. This functionality can be accessed by selecting the ‘Create Subject’ button.

Step 2: Select item type

After selecting your subject, you will see its folders and items (if any exist).

Here, you can create items by selecting the ‘Create New Item’ button. You can then select an item type from the menu. These can be:

  • Question Types – scored test pages (e.g., Multiple Choice, Drag and Drop, Numerical Entry).
  • Basic pages – non-question pages (e.g., Information and Introduction Pages).
  • Survey Question Types – non-scored versions of Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, and Essay question types used to gain candidate feedback on the test experience.

Selecting an item type takes you to its ‘Edit’ screen, where you will be able to create your item from a blank template.

Note: Selecting ‘Create New Item’ while a folder or item set is highlighted will automatically put the newly-created item in that folder or item set.

Step 3: Complete the question details

Give your item a useful name in the ‘Name’ field and enter the available number of marks in the ‘Mark’ field. You can change the item’s workflow status by using the drop-down menu.

You can add question-specific feedback for candidates by selecting the lightbulb icon. In-test feedback is particularly useful in learning and formative assessments. There are two feedback options: ‘General’ and ‘Correct / Incorrect’.

You can also add comments to the question using the speech bubble icon. This is helpful if numerous users are collaborating on a subject and wish to share notes. Comments will never be seen by candidates. See the Using Comments in Item Authoring article for further details on this.


For questions that will be computer-marked (e.g., Multiple Choice), remember to indicate the correct answer.

Note: It is possible to add media, like images and audio, to items. For more details on this, see the How to Add Media article.

Step 4: Edit item tags

In Surpass, you can create tags that are assigned to questions. Tags can be used to search for items when creating a test and for reporting on results. Default tag groups are learning outcomes, units, keywords, and topics. However, users with appropriate permissions can create new tag groups.


If you created a pre-defined list of tags when you created your subject, these will be available for selection when authoring an item. Please see the section below for more information.

Users will be able to make their own tags when authoring an item if those permissions were granted when the subject was created. If this option was not enabled, item authors will only be able to choose tags from the pre-defined list and will not be able to type free-text.

Adding tags from a pre-defined list

To add tags to a question using a pre-defined list, select the name of the tag group you wish to add (e.g., ‘Learning Outcomes’). An ‘Edit [tag group]’ window will open.


Select the input field labelled ‘Enter a new tag…’ and a scrollable list of available tags will appear. Choose the appropriate tag to add it to your item. Repeat the process if more than one tag is required.


If you accidentally add the wrong tag, you can remove it by selecting the tag’s ‘X’ icon.

When you have finished adding tags, select ‘Save Changes’.

Adding a tag as free-text

If you have the permission to create tags, new tags can be typed directly into the ‘Enter a new tag…’ field. Selecting the ‘+’ button adds the new tag to both the item and the subject’s tag list.

Note: We recommend creating a pre-defined list of tags at subject level to avoid duplicate tags and inconsistencies in spelling or capitalisation.

Step 5: Select the workflow status

By default, a new item is always set to the ‘Draft’ workflow status. Depending on your permissions, you may not be able to access all available workflow options. Items can only be added to tests once they have been set to ‘Live’ (or the relevant custom status) by a user with the appropriate permissions. This prevents unfinished and non-reviewed items from being included in live tests. For more information on workflow status, refer to the article How to Use Workflow Statuses in Item Authoring.

Step 6: Save and preview

You can preview your question at any time by selecting the ‘Preview’ button at the bottom of the screen. This shows you the question as the candidate will see it, giving you the opportunity to check question content and that marks are distributed correctly.

When you are finished with your question, select the ‘Save’ button at the bottom of the screen.


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