PCI question types and templates

Available for users with Extended Access (for creation of PCI Tools and PCI Templates), and Author (for authoring PCI questions).

Information: This feature requires activation and is currently in closed Beta.



Inspera supports the most commonly used IMS QTI question types, such as Essay, Multiple choice, Multiple response, Text entry, Numeric entry, Math entry, True / false, Matching, Composite, Drag and drop, and Hotspot. In addition, Inspera Assessment supports the creation and usage of questions that do not comply with QTI, which still can be exchanged through IMS Portable Custom Interactions (PCI).

Portable Custom Interaction (PCI) is an IMS Global standard and can be defined as follows: “Portable Custom Interaction (PCI) defines a standard way for technology-enhanced items (TEIs) or custom interaction types to be represented as part of the Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) and Accessible Portable Item Protocol (APIP) specifications.”

This article describes how rich tools question types can be created and used in Inspera Assessment through the IMS Portable Custom Interaction (PCI). It also outlines the three different content types in Inspera Assessment, PCI Tools, PCI Templates, and PCI Questions, which facilitate an effective workflow to create PCI Content.

Information: PCI question types do not have offline support, but require that the candidate has internet connection throughout the test. The support time from Inspera can be longer if in regard to these question types. 






The IMS Question and Test Interoperability specification (QTI) defines a standard format for the representation of assessment content, supporting the exchange of this material between authoring and delivery systems. It allows assessment materials to be authored and delivered on multiple systems interchangeably.


The IMS Portable Custom Interaction (PCI) defines a standard way for technology-enhanced items (TEIs) or custom interaction types to be represented as part of the IMS Question and Test Interoperability (QTI) specification.

Inspera Assessment PCI Tool 

A package consisting of a library, for instance GeoGebra, together with necessary code for communication between the tool and Inspera Assessment. 

Inspera Assessment PCI Template

A PCI Template is associated with a PCI Tool. The template defines input and output variables to communicate to and from the tool.

Inspera Assessment PCI Question 

A PCI Question is a question created from a PCI Template.


Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.


Content types

PCI Tools

The PCI Tool is an Inspera Assessment content type that forms the basis for creating one or more rich tools question types. The basis for the PCI Tool could be an existing tool like GeoGebra and Desmos, but also a custom-made tool made from scratch using standard modern web technologies, including HTML and Javascript.


A PCI Tool is created by uploading a zip-file that contains all the necessary files, through a menu shown in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1 Configuration panel for uploading a zip-file containing all the files in the new PCI Tool and to define the Tool name.


PCI Templates

When the PCI Tool is defined, it is possible to define one or typically many PCI Templates connected to that tool. The PCI Template is defined by defining a set of Template variables which can be divided into three different categories, as shown in Table 1 below. An example of these configurations as it appears in the Inspera Assessment is shown in Figure 2


Variable categories



Predefined variables

Variable used for initialising the question created from this template. The variable is not visible and thus not editable by the author.


Input variables

Variable used for initialising the question created from this template. The question author can edit this variable.


Output variables

Variables of this type are reported back from the tool and are used for automarking. 


Table 1: The different types of PCI Template variables and their purpose. The examples are values for a template (using GeoGebra) where the student is asked to draw a rectangle with a certain area.



Figure 2 The configuration panel for the Tool Template. The different template variables are defined.


PCI Question

After the PCI Tools and PCI Templates are defined and published, the author can create their very own PCI Questions. When the author selects New Question, the published PCI Templates are available in the dialog box, as demonstrated in Figure 3 below.


Figure 3 The Create New Question dialog with a list of published PCI Templates.



Roles and permission

The permission to create the different PCI content types is controlled by the Inspera Assessment standard permission system. By default the creation of PCI Tools and PCI Templates requires the  extended user role, while authoring PCI question only requires the authoring role.


Authoring a PCI Question

Setting input Variables

The authoring experience for PCI questions are very similar to the one for the QTI question types. The input fields to the right are exactly the same as for other automatically marked questions except for the Input Variables and the Correct response fields (see Figure 4).


Figure 4 Authoring a PCI Question.



PCI Questions can be previewed in the same way as regular QTI Questions. In preview mode, when the author registers a response a green or red frame is drawn around the interaction depending on whether the question is evaluated as correct or wrong (see Figure 5).


Figure 5 A green frame appears in preview mode when a correct response is registered.


Inspera Assessment Example PCI Question Types

Inspera Assessment provides a set of PCI Question Templates specifically designed for K-12 Mathematics - which we can share upon customer request. These question types serve as examples, and if you use them, we do not provide service desk support.

These question types are: 

  • The number line question type requires students to drag and drop a point on the correct place on the number line. The number line can be configured with a minimum and maximum value and with the step interval on the axis. It is also possible to add an image to follow the point.

  • The measuring cup question type asks students to adjust the water level in a measuring cup to reflect the correct amount as specified in the question. The question supports different measuring units and thus it can also be used to test unit conversion.

  • The pattern and counting question type gives students the task of marking the correct number of cells in a grid, or to exactly produce a pattern described in the question.

  • The bar chart and line chart question type requires students to adjust one or more bars or lines to reflect numbers given in the question. It is possible to freeze some of the bars or points (on the line graph)  to just limit the task to adjust one of many other bars or points.

  • The coordinate system question type supports a wide variety of settings. It is possible to draw points, line segments, lines and any polygon as part of the initial question. The task of the student is then to draw a point, line, line segment, or polygon that satisfies specific conditions. These may include, but are not limited to:
      • A specific point, line or line segment;
      • A specific triangle, right triangle or one with a given area
      • A specific quadrilateral, square parallelogram or one with a given area
      • A specific polygon or one with a given area

Since each question type has a set of input parameters that allow for a high degree of configurability, these 5 types can be used to create a wide variety of questions.

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