I am lending a hand on a project of my friend who is designing a questionnaire for high school students to determine what kind of higher education they are suitable for. There will be over hundred questions and their position is random. Progress bar is already present to show the user the percentage that's left. It shouldn't be very difficult to code as he is working on a tight schedule and has to code it himself. I am trying to figure out some "quick and dirty" method to keep them going.

For example some ideas I was thinking about :

  • Is there a best method to show the content (pagination, infinity scrolling etc..)
  • What about achievements every let's say 25% of the progress.
  • If he would go with pagination is there a number of questions asked per page to give it more doable feel?
  • Are these questions organized in anyway? Can they be categorized? Aug 29, 2018 at 21:08
  • Unfortunately no, that's what I meant with their position being random, could have described better. Aug 29, 2018 at 21:12
  • If the questions could be organised then you could employ some sort of logic whereby the users only have to answer questions that are relevant based on previous answers. As it stands I don't think there's any way to make 160 question with 1-5 answers any more exciting or palatable - as Izhaki says in their answer; the tools available to you are only going to give you minimal help - the problem is still that you're giving them 3 hours of work to do with no immediate reward. Even 'achievements' won't really help as they no value beyond the questionnaire. Aug 30, 2018 at 9:38
  • I said the same thing and told him to ask the comittee behind those questions and the project to rethink it if they could narrow the number of questions down as much as possible. Could you think of a way to implement immediate rewards though? The ultime reward in the end is that the student will know what kind of university/programme is best suited for him. I mean I would go for a long questionnaire to help me out back in high school to decide. What about quotes like "At least you don't have to study right now" etc... Keep it bit informal/playful as it's students. Aug 30, 2018 at 9:57
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    You have to appeal to your market - go and ask the students what sort of things motivate them in situations like this. But, and I can't stress this enough, the effect is going to be negligible on a survey like the one proposed. We're talking about 16-18 year olds here; not known for their long attention spans and limitless patience. Aug 30, 2018 at 14:28

1 Answer 1


Middle ages print of, erm, torture


I'm sorry not to answer your question directly, but I'm actually quite alarmed by the the whole idea...

So your friend has decided to put high-school teenagers through the torture of having to answer 160 questions? Does he or she has any idea how cognitively demanding such a task may be?

(PS, to get a faint feel for it - please go ahead to the all questions page on this site and just read the titles of the first 160. To add to the fun allow yourself 5 seconds to think how would you answer each. Then leave a comment to tell us how it went).


Has your friend done any pilots (as you normally would when venturing into such a serious questionnaire)?

I mean... we used to give students 2 hours to answer 100 multiple choice questions in exams.

How long do you think it will take?


I find it hard to believe that any academic ethical panel would approve such a long questionnaire - not only we are dealing with high-school teenagers here, but it is your responsibility to maintain the well-being of participants, and that includes cognitive well-being.

Who approved this?

Don't do it!

Need I say more?

Now that we all agree that the original initiative will never take place, here is some general advice in case your friend decides 30 questions are more than enough.

Is there a best method to show the content (pagination, infinity scrolling etc..)

If you seek to reduce cognitive load, you want things chunked and appear as manageable units of work. Infinite scrolling won't cut it. Used pagination.

What about achievements every let's say 25% of the progress.

External motivation triggers can always help, but only a bit.

If he would go with pagination is there a number of questions asked per page to give it more doable feel?

I'm not going to get into the cognitive theories behind it, but one question per page is well worth considering here.

If questions are really short and quick to answer (which they kind of must be in your case - no open questions I hope), you may wish to consider 5 of them (less physical load that way, but more noise/cognitive load).

  • So the thing is it’s not his idea in the first place, he’s doing his internship and this is a project from a client. High school went to them. The questions are not open-ended it’s rank this question from 1-5 and go to the next. I told him exactly the samy thing that I think after this questionnaire the rate of teenagers going to universities will decrease by 50%. But it’s a client project nevertheless. Aug 30, 2018 at 5:28
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    Your friend should still keep communicating to his client why this is doomed to fail, the way it is now at least. Reducing the amount of questions is a great first step. Teenagers in general are already known to have a short attention span. I know it's difficult to criticise a client's idea, especially as an intern, but your friend has the opportunity to help the client greatly in the long run. Aug 30, 2018 at 12:39
  • Torture, I second the use of the word. I'm much older, not a student mercifully, and I squirm just thinking of it. Will the students be logged in while they're being raked over the hundreds of questions? What if they have to go to class having merely answered the first 60? What if the connection goes down, the battery dies, the browser freezes? Do they get to do this .. thing in several sessions if necessary? Accounting for interruptions wouldn't make it OK, but it would make it possible. Sep 1, 2018 at 1:31

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