Short Answer Questions
The short answer question requires students to supply the appropriate words, numbers, or symbols to answer a question or complete a statement. Reserve short answer questions for situations when supplying the answer is a necessary part of the learning outcome to be measured, such as:
- when the intent is to have students recall the information (instead of recognize it)
- where computational problems are used
- where a multiple-choice, true-false, or check all that apply would make the answer obvious.
Provides a wide sampling of content.
- Efficiently measures lower levels of cognitive ability.
- Minimizes guessing as compared to multiple-choice or true-false questions.
- Takes less time to complete than multiple-choice questions, so can cover more content area.
- Difficult to phrase the question or incomplete statement so that only one answer is correct.
- Misspelling can be a problem, particularly when computer scored, making test scores a mixture of content learning and spelling skill.
- Difficult to measure learning objectives requiring more than simple recall of information.
- Often include more irrelevant clues than do other question types.
- More time consuming to score than multiple-choice or true-false questions.
- More difficult to score since multiple answers may have to be considered if the question was not properly written.
Tips for Writing Short Answer Questions
- Questions should require a single word answer or a brief and definite statement.
- Avoid statements that are answered equally well by several terms.
- A direct question is often more desirable than an incomplete statement.
- Blank spaces should usually occur at the end of the statement rather than the beginning or within.
- Omit only key words. The meaning or main point of the question is lost if too many elements are removed.
- If the question requires a numerical answer, indicate the units in which it is to be expressed.
- Avoid verbal clues and specific determiners (e.g., the, an, a):