Library: using Media Files (images) and Resource Files (PDFs)

Cirrus Assessment Support Team -

Introduction on the use of media files

When delivering digital assessments you have the opportunity to fully take advantage of you digital exam delivery system by using media elements such as digital images, video and audio or text and spreadsheet files to your Items. This article will expand on:

Adding images or PDFs to your questions

The simplest way to add images or PDFs is doing so when you are creating / editing your question. You can add them inline using the WYSIWYG editor or add larger images and PDFs, see Using a Resource file (PDF) or using  a Media File (large image). Please also review the considerations on this page.

How to Add a Media Element to the Library

Adding Media Elements to your library to be used in Items or Item Banks is very easy in Cirrus:


  • Go to Library > Media Elements:
  • Click on the "Add-button"
  • Browse and select the file you want to upload and press Enter.
  • Via this screen you can also share items with authors using the share button.
  • When you are working on a question you can also directly upload media elements to your Library. This is the most common way as this save you time.

Some considerations when using Media Elements and Resource Files

When using media files and resources files - images and PDFs mostly - please consider the following for file upload / uploading files:

  • Keep it small: when using files online, keep in mind that they need to be loaded. This means that you should strive to keep to a small size (up to 2MB is a good guideline for images)
  • Keep it short - in a 2 hour exam do not use twenty 30 minute video / audio fragments.
  • Keep it limited: do not put over a 100 files in your exam, especially if you do brick and mortar delivery to larger groups.
  • Why the limitations? Keep in mind that Cirrus only limits the file size to about 10MB to help prevent candidate frustration. This is because Cirrus and probably you yourself are not always in control of the download speed for candidates. Having to download a lot / having to wait a lot is very detrimental to the user experience during any exam.
  • Stream when possible - also see the paragraph on using video below
  • Test your setup - make sure to fully test delivery when using digital media. Experience teaches that some exam locations cannot handle huge data traffic or sometimes even block the use of YouTube for example!

Using images in your digital assessments

General: What makes for a good image? What is a 'large' image?

We live in an age where images are everywhere. But what makes for a good image to use in your exam? And what is a 'large' image?
Most people do not realise that images for digital media (like your exams) often do not have to have the highest resolution. The resolution is the amount of points per inch (DPI Dots Per Inch or PPI Pixels Per Inch). When you print a photo on paper you need a lot, on a computer screen not that many.

In the end you want the smallest file size (determined by resolution and size) still good enough for your exam delivery. Smaller files mean faster loading for candidates.

Adding an image to a question in Cirrus

There are two ways to add images to questions

1) 'Inline' using the WYSIWYG editor
You can use the 'add image' button in the WYSIWYG editor to add an image to your question text for example.
Please note: to ensure a uniform delivery experience for candidates your images are always scaled down to a maximum width of 500 pixels or maximum height of 400.

Tip: if you use larger images always start with your question above this and refer to the image you are using. Example: “Looking at the image, what type of architecture is this an example of? “

A note on adding images to answer options: You can also add images to answer options, for example for MC, MR or Match questions. In this case we recommend to use smaller images with a width of max 300px. But this depends on the question type at hand. For Match recommended with/height is 50 pixels.

2) Adding an image as a Media file
For higher quality images (larger in size and/or using a higher resolution)  you can use the 'Add Media File’ button below the WYSIWYG editor. This can be useful for images where the details especially important.

In delivery this will show as image with max width 500 pixels below the question. When clicking the image it will render in a modal window (a ‘pop-up’) to a maximum width of roughly 90% of the available pixels on the device. (Max-width: 90vw; (where vw stand for the viewport width).

Please note that Cirrus currently requires a computer with a screen resolution of at least 1200 x 800 (September 2019). See our 'System Requirements'.

Using video in your Items: YouTube or Vimeo

A great way to use video, is by using YouTube or Vimeo. These can easily be added:

Please note that Cirrus uses a HTML5 player - as the flash player is no longer considered up to standard by the industry (including YouTube itself). This has certain functional implications:

  • Cirrus offers the possibility to use the start parameters of these services. However, if the video is set to start at 0m:53s and the candidate presses 'replay', the video will restart at 0m:00s.

  • If the author or candidate has watched a 50 minute youtube video up to minute 24 (for example), when he embeds the video without setting any start and end time, the video is going to start from the moment he left off (min 24) when using the same computer.

  • When adding a Youtube video, make sure it is embedded on the second line. In other words: start with some text. If you start with the video, the title for the question will start with <untitled> as we cannot display the video there.

Using hyperlinks in your items

When digitally assessing please note that the use of hyperlinks can lead to pages or sources that cannot be opened as most test locations can have severely restricted access. This is why using hyperlinks is not officially supported in Cirrus, there is no button to add them in the WYSIWYG-editor. 

However, you can choose to copy paste them in your text (only in the WYSIWYG editor) and right click them to edit them:


This might not work for all types of links and also MS Edge has known issues in working with hyperlinks. Our advice is: use the 'Add Resource' or 'Add Media file' button.

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