Short answer questions are one of the most common types of test questions. Essentially mini essays, short answer questions will ask you to explain a concept, a process, or another topic covered in class. Knowing your stuff inside and out is the only sure way to do well on these types of questions, but the following tips might be of some help.
- Pay attention to values: Looking at the values of short answer questions will help you determine roughly how long your answers should be. Obviously, questions worth more points will require more thorough responses. If you can, ask your instructor before the test about his or her grading methods for short answer questions. Some teachers, for instance, award a point for each item that is identified and explained. Knowing this can help immensely while you're planning your answer.
- Use complete sentences: Unless the test instructions specifically state that lists or points are acceptable, answer all short answer questions using complete sentences.
- Make sure answers are well-organized: Short answer questions should be organized in much the same way as the supporting paragraphs of an essay. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence stating the main point or idea. Then, provide further explanation or support in the next several sentences. Before you begin writing, jot down the main points that you plan to cover in your answer.
- Look for clues in other sections: Unless the test is composed entirely of short answer questions, you may be able to find clues that will help you in the other sections of the exam. Matching questions, for instance, can help you with the definitions of key terms while statements in the true or false section may contain some good topic sentences. If you do find relevant information in other test sections, don't hesitate to use it. Be sure, however, to present the information in your own words as your instructor probably won't appreciate you plagiarizing other sections of the test.
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Last Updated: 03/22/2013