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Very Short Answer Questions

Very Short Answer (VSA) and Hot Spot question styles have been added to the eSystem. So, you can now add these question types to your medical examinations.

Very Short Answer questions have been growing in popularity, with some institutions choosing these as an alternative to Single Best Answer (SBA). (Read more about SBA vs VSA here).

A study published in the Wiley online library in 2018 found VSA questions to have high reliability and discrimination making them a valid choice. Additionally, students’ perception was that they were more authentic than equivalent SBA questions.

As with Single Best Answer, the Very Short Answer question format has the benefit of automatic marking. Saving time and removing any margin for error in the marking process.

When setting up VSA questions in the eSystem, you have the option to add the model answer alongside any alternative correct answers. You’ll then need to allocate marks to each one.

After the exam, it’s possible to review all of the answers. At this stage, you can assign marks to any other acceptable responses that were not anticipated prior to the exam.

For more about using VSA questions in eSystem watch our short video

Hot Spot Questions

Hot Spot questions are also popular in medical education. With Hot Spot questions, candidates are presented with an image and they select an area or ‘Hot Spot’ on the picture as the answer. Ideal for testing a candidate’s interpretation of an x-ray or scan for instance.

When creating the Hot Spot question in the eSystem, it’s easy to mark out the Hot Spot area.

During exam delivery, candidates can zoom into the image to examine it more closely. They can then identify the area they want to submit as their answer and click it.  If they change their mind at any point, they can go back and change their selection.

Like VSAs, Hot Spot questions are marked automatically by the eSystem. At the end of the exam, examiners can review all the answers by viewing the heat map report. See below for an example:


Hot Spot Heat Map in eSystem exam software



The heat map feature allows examiners to have a useful visual representation of the answers. Additionally, if preferred,  it’s possible to view the heat map without the image. With this option just the Hot Spot and the candidate answers are visible. Giving examiners a quick and clear visual representation of all answers that fall within the Hot Spot area and those that don’t.

If you would like to see how Hot Spot works in practice within the eSystem – watch our short video

You can access both Hot Spot and VSA questions from the drop-down menu within the eSystem, alongside the other question formats. Additionally, all of the usual reports such as item analysis and candidate feedback reports are available with these questions.

 Talk to us

With Speedwell’s eSystem you get all the benefits associated with streamlined exam management, plus the flexibility to customise to suit your individual needs. To find out more or arrange a personal demonstration, call our sales team on +44 (0) 1223 851703 or email