Essay Questions Definition

Essay questions are used to assess student knowledge of the subject content and writing ability. The question is followed by a text box. Well written essay questions require students to compose a response. Students use multiple sentences when responding to an essay question. The responses are then interrupted and manually scored by a subject-matter expert.

Types of Essay Questions

Extended Response Questions

This type of essay question allows a student to determine the content of the answer. Essay questions examine the student's ability to organize, synthesize, and evaluate to compose a response. One essay question topic could be, "How I Spent My Holiday Break." This type of question works well to judge writing skills, but does not necessarily have a right or wrong answer.

Restricted Response Questions

This type of essay question is limited in terms of content and structure. For instance, you could ask, "Tell me about a time in your life where you struggled to cope with the death of a family member." This type of question would restrict the writer to a limited time and scope enabling them to provide sufficient detail on the topic. Restricted response questions are helpful when testing students about content.

Advantages of Essay Questions

Disadvantages of Essay Questions

Average Response Time

10 - 15 minutes

Constructing Essay Questions

Good Example of an Essay Question

Explain in what way a person's failure to apply the smoking cessation step process will impact his or her ability to stop smoking. Provide an example to illustrate your point.

Bad Example of an Essay Question

List all the steps to the smoking cessation process. Please list them in chronological order.

Identifying Flawed Essay Questions

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Essay Question References

Cashin, W. E. (1987). Idea Paper No. 17: Improving Essay Tests. Manhattan, KS
Hammer, C. (1986). Writing Better Essay Questions. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 59(7), 298-298. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
Reiner, C. R., Bothell, T. W., Sudweeks, R. R., & Wood, B. (2002). How to prepare effective essay questions: Guidelines for university faculty. BYU Faculty Center, Salt Lake City.
Reiner, C. M., Bothell, T. W., Sudweeks, R. R., & Wood, B. (2002). Preparing effective essay questions. New Forums Press, Stillwater. Retrieved April 21, 2016.
How to Prepare Effective Essay Questions: Guidelines for University Faculty. Retrieved April 21, 2016.


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