Question Types

Question-type Selection Guide

Whether creating questions for low-stakes assessments [formative] or for high-stakes assessments [summative], both major types of questions have their purpose to assess learning. 

Fixed-Choice Questions: Require students to select the correct response from several alternatives or supply a word or short phrase to answer a question. They include

Fixed-choice questions are often used to:

  • ask a large group of students a question during class with the help of a classroom-reponse system
  • efficiently obtain reliable exam scores
  • ensure impartiality of scoring, absolute fairness, and freedom from scoring influences (such as fatigue and lack of anonymity)
  • expedite scoring and reporting results
  • assess factual knowledge

Open-Ended Questions: Require students to write and present an original answer. They include

These types of questions work well to assess both students' understanding and their ability to apply principles, think critically, solve problems, especially when there is more than one correct answer.  Open-ended questions are often used to:

  • encourage and reward development of writing skills
  • examine student’s attitudes
  • encourage creativity
  • express values, views, or opinions
  • explain their reasoning and show their work