Login
Copyright

Strengths & Limitations of Short Answer & Essay Questions

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Technology in the Classroom: Advantages & Disadvantages

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:03 The Basics of Test Taking
  • 1:23 Short Answer & Essay Questions
  • 2:45 Limitations of Short…
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dr. Douglas Hawks

Douglas has two master's degrees (MPA & MBA) and is currently working on his PhD in Higher Education Administration.

Requiring written answers is often the best way to assess students' understanding of a concept. However, there are strengths and limitations to short answer and essay questions, which we'll examine in this lesson.

The Basics of Test Taking

We've probably all felt that sensation of dread in the pit in our stomach. After 20 or so multiple-choice or true/false questions that we are feeling pretty good about, we turn to the last page of our test, and it's the dreaded essay question!

Whether you are the student taking the test or the instructor writing the test, there are some important things to understand about short-answer and essay questions. Short-answer and essay questions are based on a predetermined rubric developed by the instructor that require the test taker to write their answer in complete sentences.

In the mid-1900s, an educator named Benjamin Bloom developed what is now called Bloom's Taxonomy. Basically, Bloom identified different types of learning, and since then, other educators have realized that many of his types of learning are most effectively assessed using different types of questions. His types of learning included classifications like knowing, comprehending, applying, analyzing, and evaluation.

Bloom's first classifications, like 'knowing,' are best tested with multiple choice questions that simply test the retention of facts. But, we're headed for the heavy testing - the 'analyzing' and 'evaluation' classifications that require some explanation from the student to demonstrate their understanding.

Short Answer & Essay Questions

Short answer and essay questions certainly have their strengths. Most of all, students can't guess the right answer when they have to explain their answer. Writing out an answer also solidifies the learning of a concept. Reading about something or hearing about it and even discussing it can help students retain and understand information, but having to process that information in a way that then requires them to articulate it in writing gives them another chance to think through it and explain, in their own words, what they've learned.

Short answer and essay questions also have another important benefit: they can serve as a feedback mechanism for the instructor. This can be true of all test questions, but short answer and essay questions can provide the instructor with insight into possible misunderstandings students' have of the material. This helps the instructor improve the material for future lessons. Another benefit for the student and the instructor is that, unlike multiple-choice questions, a student can receive partial credit since the answer isn't as simple as a strict, predefined choice.

The instructor can also learn from the students. Ask any teacher that's written and graded short-answer or essay questions, and they will tell you at some point, they read something that gave them ideas on how to improve their teaching of the material.

Limitations of Short Answers and Essays

While short answer and essay questions are a very effective means of assessment, they do present challenges. First of all, they take a lot of time for both the student and the instructor. The instructor has to write the question and then they have to grade all the answers. That takes time, and it can be difficult. Second, writing itself is a skill that some students do very well and others struggle with.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support