Learn How to Handle Short Answer Questions

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Learn How to Handle Short Answer Questions

Do you find it hard to deal with the questions requiring short answers? Are you anxious about the exams you need to take at the end of the semester? Do you think you are not skilled enough to answer the quiz questions quickly? Just read our guide for a short answer questions assignment!

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Useful Advice on how to Do Short Answer Questions Tests

  • Give a short answer to each question

Note that some tasks contain questions that are divided into a few parts. Each of them requires a short and clear response. Such type of assignments is called short answer questions.

  • Be attentive when answering questions

It is very important to read the test questions attentively. Thus, you will be able to answer each of them correctly. Mind that your responses should include only relevant information. You should strive hard to give precise answers to the posed questions.

  • Cite examples

Do not rewrite test questions. When answering questions, you need to use specific terms and refer to particular notions to show your professor that you have a profound knowledge of the discussed matter. Do not forget to give examples of the issues either from literature or real life. Remember that professors want to be sure that you know how to apply the gained knowledge and skills to real-life situations.

  • Wh-questions

Try to give clear answers to the wh-questions, i.e. who, how, what, and why. Do not provide inaccurate or unreliable data when answering test questions. Keep in mind that you have to be ready to support your ideas with strong arguments and the latest statistics.

Understanding the Question

Read the question carefully. Before you get started, make sure that you have read the essay question twice and that you understand what you need to do. Underline or highlight the most important words or phrases in the question to help you stay focused on answering the question.[1]

Focus on the signal words. When instructors create a test, they choose certain words to explain how they would like you to respond. For instance, if the question is asking you to “analyze” a problem, they would not want you to merely “describe” it. It is important that you understand the instructor’s expectations because if you misinterpret the question, you will get zero no matter how well-written it was. Here are different types of essay questions and how to answer them.

  • Definition: Simply write the meaning of the word.
  • Discussion: You will begin by objectively describing something and then argue in support or opposite to it. For example, you might be asked to analyze the pros and cons of a topic.
  • Proof: This typically involves science-based questions. You might be asked to create a hypothesis and provide strong evidence based on objective facts and research.
  • Analytical: explain the what, when, where, how, who, etc. Discuss the strong Include pros and cons, strengths and weaknesses, etc.
  • Descriptive: Typically requiring an objective answer, you simply need to list characteristics, steps, or otherwise describe an event, object, or topic.
  • Explanation: Discuss how or why something occurred, or argue in support of a viewpoint.
  • Summary: The main idea is to summarize certain points, but often you will also be asked to go deeper into a discussion about the topic.
  • Compare/Contrast: You are asked to take two things and discuss their similarities and differences. Make sure to also explain why contrasting these things are important.
  • Evaluation: You are usually given a statement and asked to argue for or against its position or merits. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the statement.

Do Not Be Afraid to Seek Clarification. Your instructor is not trying to trick you. They want you to understand where they are coming from. That is why it is important to go up to them and ask to clarify a question. They obviously cannot just give you the answer, but they can at least prevent misinterpretation.

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How to Respond Short Answer Questions

Pay attention to the instructions. The instructions are absolutely the key to answering the question correctly. Stay concise and to the point. Only answer the question and do not add any irrelevant information or vaguely related facts. Professors often say that failure to follow directions is the primary reason why students get the answer wrong.

Do not ignore the importance of the proper structure. The way you organize the answers to an essay question makes a big difference. In particular, if you are being asked to answer in a specific order, make sure to do so. Also, when presenting information, determine which point should be mentioned first, which one should come second, etc.

Support your answers with relevant, fact-based evidence. When answering the question, you can build a convincing case if you include important facts and figures, especially if they come directly from the course materials. It demonstrates to the professor that you pay attention during class. If time permits, take a moment to brainstorm ideas before organizing them in your answer.

Start your essay question response by directly incorporating the question itself. By inserting the question itself into the answer, you are demonstrating to your instructor that you have read and understood the question. It also makes it easier for you to stay on task as you provide an answer since your response explicitly informs the reader what you are going to write.

For example, if you get an essay question that asks, “Who was the most effective American president of the 20th century? Justify your response.”

  • You could answer, “The most effective American president of the 20th century was Franklin Roosevelt because he got the country out of the Depression and created a social safety net that brought millions out of poverty.”

Make sure that you are expressing your thoughts in a purposeful way. There should always be a point to your argument.

  • For instance, even as you identify who you believe was the best American president of the 20th century, you should include some counter-arguments as a concession that a subjective answer can never be clear-cut.
  • Avoid being vague or making a statement without actually providing evidence. For example, stating, “It is important not to repeal the Estate Tax” and then not proceeding to explain why will result in a poor score.

Proofread your answers. Typos and poorly constructed sentences are surefire ways of getting points subtracted from your score. Read over your answers and make sure you did not accidentally misspell a word or write any incomplete sentences. If you are taking a handwritten test, make sure your answers are legible. If an instructor cannot read it, it is impossible to know what you are trying to say.

Relax and Do Not Get Worked Up

  • Do not let anxiety get the best of you.

Pause for a moment if you feel yourself getting nervous. Take some deep breaths. Close your eyes. Stretch your arms if there is enough room. Remember that panicking does you no good. It will only make it difficult to recall important information.

  • Pace yourself.

Some exams may suggest how much time you should spend on each question or even give you a time limit for each question.

Count how many questions are on the essay test and figure out how much time you will need to devote to them based on the time allocated to taking the test. For instance, if you have to answer 3 short-essay questions and 90 minutes to take the test, give yourself 30 minutes to answer each and nothing more. Also, take into account the point value of each question. For example, if certain questions are worth more points, focus on those first.

  • Do not be too leisurely as you write your answers.

Although you obviously do not want to write things down so quickly that the question lacks focus and structure, you also want to avoid working at a snail’s pace. Get through the questions as quickly as possible – especially if you have several to answer – taking into account your time constraints.

  • Stay on topic.

When writing a response to an essay question on an exam, only include the information that is most essential. Adding information that is only tangentially related will not do your score any favors. You should also narrow the focus on just a few key points rather than making a list and then not going into detail (unless, of course, you are only being asked to make a list without having to elaborate). Your professor will want to know that you have strong knowledge about the most important events or ideas. Finally, using transitional phrases to link the main points will add organization to your paper, a feature that is certain to leave a good impression on the test grader.

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