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Short answer and essay questions

Short answer and essay questions are types of assessment that are commonly used to evaluate a student’s understanding and knowledge.

Tips for creating short answer and essay questions

e.g., What is __? or how could __ be put into practice?
  • Consider the course  learning outcomes . Design questions that appropriately assess the relevant learning objectives.
  • Make sure the  content measures knowledge  appropriate to the desired learner level and learning goal.
  • When students think critically they are required to  step beyond recalling factual information , incorporating evidence and examples to corroborate and/or dispute the validity of assertions/suppositions and compare and contrast multiple perspectives on the same argument.
e.g., paragraphs? sentences? Is bullet point format acceptable or does it have to be an essay format?
  • Specify how many  marks each question is worth .
  • Word limits  should be applied within Canvas for discursive or essay-type responses.
  • Check that your  language and instructions  are appropriate to the student population and discipline of study. Not all students have English as their first language.
  • Ensure the  instructions to students are clear , including optional and compulsory questions and the various components of the assessment.

Questions that promote deeper thinking

Use “open-ended” questions to provoke divergent thinking.

These questions will allow for a variety of possible answers and encourage students to think at a deeper level. Some generic question stems that trigger or stimulate different forms of critical thinking include:

  • “What are the implications of …?”
  • “Why is it important …?”
  • “What is another way to look at …?”

Use questions that are deliberate in the types of higher order thinking to promote/assess

Rather than promoting recall of facts, use questions that allow students to demonstrate their comprehension, application and analysis of the concepts.

Generic question stems that can be used to trigger and assess higher order thinking


Convert information into a form that  makes sense to the individual .

  • How would you put __ into your own words?
  • What would be an example of __?


Apply abstract or theoretical principles to  concrete ,  practical  situations.

  • How can you make use of __?
  • How could __ be put into practice?

Break down  or  dissect  information.

  • What are the most important/significant ideas or elements of __?
  • What assumptions/biases underlie or are hidden within __?

Build up  or  connect  separate pieces of information to form a larger, more coherent pattern

  • How can these different ideas be grouped together into a more general category?  

Critically judge  the validity or aesthetic value of ideas, data, or products.

  • How would you judge the accuracy or validity of __? 
  • How would you evaluate the ethical (moral) implications or consequences of __?

Draw conclusions about  particular instances  that are logically consistent.

  • What specific conclusions can be drawn from this general __? 
  • What particular actions would be consistent with this general __? 

Balanced thinking

Carefully consider arguments/evidence  for  and  against  a particular position.

  • What evidence supports and contradicts __? 
  • What are arguments for and counterarguments against __? 

Causal reasoning

Identify  cause-effect relationships  between different ideas or actions.

  • How would you explain why __ occurred? 
  • How would __ affect or influence __? 

Creative thinking

Generate  imaginative  ideas or  novel  approaches to traditional practices.  

  • What might be a metaphor or analogy for __? 
  • What might happen if __? (hypothetical reasoning)

Redesign test questions for open-book format

It is important to redesign the assessment tasks to authentically assess the intended learning outcomes in a way that is appropriate for this mode of assessment. Replacing questions that simply recall facts with questions that require higher level cognitive skills—for example analysis and explanation of why and how students reached an answer—provides opportunities for reflective questions based on students’ own experiences.

More quick, focused problem-solving and analysis—conducted with restricted access to limited allocated resources—will need to incorporate a student’s ability to demonstrate a more thoughtful research-based approach and/or the ability to negotiate an understanding of more complex problems, sometimes in an open-book format.

Layers can be added to the problem/process, and the inclusion of a reflective aspect can help achieve these goals, whether administered in an oral test or written examination format.

Example 2: Analytic style multiple choice question or short answer

Acknowledgement: Deakin University and original multiple choice questions: Jennifer Lindley, Monash University.

Setting word limits for discursive or essay-type responses

Try to set a  fair and reasonable word count  for long answer and essay questions. Some points to consider are:

  • Weighting  – what is the relative weighting of the question in the assessment?
  • Level of study  – what is the suggested word count for written assessments in your discipline, for that level of study?
  • Skills development  – what skills are you requiring students to demonstrate? Higher level cognitive skills, such as evaluation and analysis, tend to require a lengthier word count in order to adequately respond to the assessment prompt.
  • Referencing  – will you require students to  reference their sources ? This takes time, which should be accounted for in the total time to complete the assessment. References generally would not count towards the word count. Include clear marking guidelines for referencing in rubrics, including assessing skills such as critical thinking and evaluation of information.

Communicate your expectations around word count to students in your assessment instructions, including how you will deal with submissions that are outside the word count.

E.g.,  Write 600-800 words evaluating the key concepts of XYZ. Excess text over the word limit will not be marked.

Let students know how to check the word count in their submission:

  • Show  word count in Inspera  – question type: Essay.

Canvas shows the word count at the bottom of the text editor.

Multi-choice questions

Write MCQs that assess reasoning, rather than recall.

Page updated 16/03/2023 (added open-book section)

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  • Focus and Precision: How to Write Essays that Answer the Question

short essay type questions

About the Author Stephanie Allen read Classics and English at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, and is currently researching a PhD in Early Modern Academic Drama at the University of Fribourg.

We’ve all been there. You’ve handed in an essay and you think it’s pretty great: it shows off all your best ideas, and contains points you’re sure no one else will have thought of.

You’re not totally convinced that what you’ve written is relevant to the title you were given – but it’s inventive, original and good. In fact, it might be better than anything that would have responded to the question. But your essay isn’t met with the lavish praise you expected. When it’s tossed back onto your desk, there are huge chunks scored through with red pen, crawling with annotations like little red fire ants: ‘IRRELEVANT’; ‘A bit of a tangent!’; ‘???’; and, right next to your best, most impressive killer point: ‘Right… so?’. The grade your teacher has scrawled at the end is nowhere near what your essay deserves. In fact, it’s pretty average. And the comment at the bottom reads something like, ‘Some good ideas, but you didn’t answer the question!’.

short essay type questions

If this has ever happened to you (and it has happened to me, a lot), you’ll know how deeply frustrating it is – and how unfair it can seem. This might just be me, but the exhausting process of researching, having ideas, planning, writing and re-reading makes me steadily more attached to the ideas I have, and the things I’ve managed to put on the page. Each time I scroll back through what I’ve written, or planned, so far, I become steadily more convinced of its brilliance. What started off as a scribbled note in the margin, something extra to think about or to pop in if it could be made to fit the argument, sometimes comes to be backbone of a whole essay – so, when a tutor tells me my inspired paragraph about Ted Hughes’s interpretation of mythology isn’t relevant to my essay on Keats, I fail to see why. Or even if I can see why, the thought of taking it out is wrenching. Who cares if it’s a bit off-topic? It should make my essay stand out, if anything! And an examiner would probably be happy not to read yet another answer that makes exactly the same points. If you recognise yourself in the above, there are two crucial things to realise. The first is that something has to change: because doing well in high school exam or coursework essays is almost totally dependent on being able to pin down and organise lots of ideas so that an examiner can see that they convincingly answer a question. And it’s a real shame to work hard on something, have good ideas, and not get the marks you deserve. Writing a top essay is a very particular and actually quite simple challenge. It’s not actually that important how original you are, how compelling your writing is, how many ideas you get down, or how beautifully you can express yourself (though of course, all these things do have their rightful place). What you’re doing, essentially, is using a limited amount of time and knowledge to really answer a question. It sounds obvious, but a good essay should have the title or question as its focus the whole way through . It should answer it ten times over – in every single paragraph, with every fact or figure. Treat your reader (whether it’s your class teacher or an external examiner) like a child who can’t do any interpretive work of their own; imagine yourself leading them through your essay by the hand, pointing out that you’ve answered the question here , and here , and here. Now, this is all very well, I imagine you objecting, and much easier said than done. But never fear! Structuring an essay that knocks a question on the head is something you can learn to do in a couple of easy steps. In the next few hundred words, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned through endless, mindless crossings-out, rewordings, rewritings and rethinkings.

Top tips and golden rules

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to ‘write the question at the top of every new page’- but for some reason, that trick simply doesn’t work for me. If it doesn’t work for you either, use this three-part process to allow the question to structure your essay:

1)     Work out exactly what you’re being asked

It sounds really obvious, but lots of students have trouble answering questions because they don’t take time to figure out exactly what they’re expected to do – instead, they skim-read and then write the essay they want to write. Sussing out a question is a two-part process, and the first part is easy. It means looking at the directions the question provides as to what sort of essay you’re going to write. I call these ‘command phrases’ and will go into more detail about what they mean below. The second part involves identifying key words and phrases.

2)     Be as explicit as possible

Use forceful, persuasive language to show how the points you’ve made do answer the question. My main focus so far has been on tangential or irrelevant material – but many students lose marks even though they make great points, because they don’t quite impress how relevant those points are. Again, I’ll talk about how you can do this below.

3)     Be brutally honest with yourself about whether a point is relevant before you write it.

It doesn’t matter how impressive, original or interesting it is. It doesn’t matter if you’re panicking, and you can’t think of any points that do answer the question. If a point isn’t relevant, don’t bother with it. It’s a waste of time, and might actually work against you- if you put tangential material in an essay, your reader will struggle to follow the thread of your argument, and lose focus on your really good points.

Put it into action: Step One

short essay type questions

Let’s imagine you’re writing an English essay about the role and importance of the three witches in Macbeth . You’re thinking about the different ways in which Shakespeare imagines and presents the witches, how they influence the action of the tragedy, and perhaps the extent to which we’re supposed to believe in them (stay with me – you don’t have to know a single thing about Shakespeare or Macbeth to understand this bit!). Now, you’ll probably have a few good ideas on this topic – and whatever essay you write, you’ll most likely use much of the same material. However, the detail of the phrasing of the question will significantly affect the way you write your essay. You would draw on similar material to address the following questions: Discuss Shakespeare’s representation of the three witches in Macbeth . How does Shakespeare figure the supernatural in Macbeth ?   To what extent are the three witches responsible for Macbeth’s tragic downfall? Evaluate the importance of the three witches in bringing about Macbeth’s ruin. Are we supposed to believe in the three witches in Macbeth ? “Within Macbeth ’s representation of the witches, there is profound ambiguity about the actual significance and power of their malevolent intervention” (Stephen Greenblatt). Discuss.   I’ve organised the examples into three groups, exemplifying the different types of questions you might have to answer in an exam. The first group are pretty open-ended: ‘discuss’- and ‘how’-questions leave you room to set the scope of the essay. You can decide what the focus should be. Beware, though – this doesn’t mean you don’t need a sturdy structure, or a clear argument, both of which should always be present in an essay. The second group are asking you to evaluate, constructing an argument that decides whether, and how far something is true. Good examples of hypotheses (which your essay would set out to prove) for these questions are:

  • The witches are the most important cause of tragic action in Macbeth.
  • The witches are partially, but not entirely responsible for Macbeth’s downfall, alongside Macbeth’s unbridled ambition, and that of his wife.
  • We are not supposed to believe the witches: they are a product of Macbeth’s psyche, and his downfall is his own doing.
  • The witches’ role in Macbeth’s downfall is deliberately unclear. Their claim to reality is shaky – finally, their ambiguity is part of an uncertain tragic universe and the great illusion of the theatre. (N.B. It’s fine to conclude that a question can’t be answered in black and white, certain terms – as long as you have a firm structure, and keep referring back to it throughout the essay).

The final question asks you to respond to a quotation. Students tend to find these sorts of questions the most difficult to answer, but once you’ve got the hang of them I think the title does most of the work for you – often implicitly providing you with a structure for your essay. The first step is breaking down the quotation into its constituent parts- the different things it says. I use brackets: ( Within Macbeth ’s representation of the witches, ) ( there is profound ambiguity ) about the ( actual significance ) ( and power ) of ( their malevolent intervention ) Examiners have a nasty habit of picking the most bewildering and terrifying-sounding quotations: but once you break them down, they’re often asking for something very simple. This quotation, for example, is asking exactly the same thing as the other questions. The trick here is making sure you respond to all the different parts. You want to make sure you discuss the following:

  • Do you agree that the status of the witches’ ‘malevolent intervention’ is ambiguous?
  • What is its significance?
  • How powerful is it?

Step Two: Plan

short essay type questions

Having worked out exactly what the question is asking, write out a plan (which should be very detailed in a coursework essay, but doesn’t have to be more than a few lines long in an exam context) of the material you’ll use in each paragraph. Make sure your plan contains a sentence at the end of each point about how that point will answer the question. A point from my plan for one of the topics above might look something like this:

To what extent are we supposed to believe in the three witches in Macbeth ?  Hypothesis: The witches’ role in Macbeth’s downfall is deliberately unclear. Their claim to reality is uncertain – finally, they’re part of an uncertain tragic universe and the great illusion of the theatre. Para.1: Context At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth , there were many examples of people being burned or drowned as witches There were also people who claimed to be able to exorcise evil demons from people who were ‘possessed’. Catholic Christianity leaves much room for the supernatural to exist This suggests that Shakespeare’s contemporary audience might, more readily than a modern one, have believed that witches were a real phenomenon and did exist.

My final sentence (highlighted in red) shows how the material discussed in the paragraph answers the question. Writing this out at the planning stage, in addition to clarifying your ideas, is a great test of whether a point is relevant: if you struggle to write the sentence, and make the connection to the question and larger argument, you might have gone off-topic.

Step Three: Paragraph beginnings and endings

short essay type questions

The final step to making sure you pick up all the possible marks for ‘answering the question’ in an essay is ensuring that you make it explicit how your material does so. This bit relies upon getting the beginnings and endings of paragraphs just right. To reiterate what I said above, treat your reader like a child: tell them what you’re going to say; tell them how it answers the question; say it, and then tell them how you’ve answered the question. This need not feel clumsy, awkward or repetitive. The first sentence of each new paragraph or point should, without giving too much of your conclusion away, establish what you’re going to discuss, and how it answers the question. The opening sentence from the paragraph I planned above might go something like this:

Early modern political and religious contexts suggest that Shakespeare’s contemporary audience might more readily have believed in witches than his modern readers.

The sentence establishes that I’m going to discuss Jacobean religion and witch-burnings, and also what I’m going to use those contexts to show. I’d then slot in all my facts and examples in the middle of the paragraph. The final sentence (or few sentences) should be strong and decisive, making a clear connection to the question you’ve been asked:

  Contemporary suspicion that witches did exist, testified to by witch-hunts and exorcisms, is crucial to our understanding of the witches in Macbeth.  To the early modern consciousness, witches were a distinctly real and dangerous possibility – and the witches in the play would have seemed all-the-more potent and terrifying as a result.

Step Four: Practice makes perfect

The best way to get really good at making sure you always ‘answer the question’ is to write essay plans rather than whole pieces. Set aside a few hours, choose a couple of essay questions from past papers, and for each:

  • Write a hypothesis
  • Write a rough plan of what each paragraph will contain
  • Write out the first and last sentence of each paragraph

You can get your teacher, or a friend, to look through your plans and give you feedback . If you follow this advice, fingers crossed, next time you hand in an essay, it’ll be free from red-inked comments about irrelevance, and instead showered with praise for the precision with which you handled the topic, and how intently you focused on answering the question. It can seem depressing when your perfect question is just a minor tangent from the question you were actually asked, but trust me – high praise and good marks are all found in answering the question in front of you, not the one you would have liked to see. Teachers do choose the questions they set you with some care, after all; chances are the question you were set is the more illuminating and rewarding one as well.

Image credits: banner ; Keats ; Macbeth ; James I ; witches .

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Exam Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Exams

Essay exams involve a significant written component in which you are asked to discuss and expand on a topic.  These could include written responses in the form of a formal essay or a detailed short-answer response.

  • Short answer vs essay questions

Preparing for an essay exam

Answering essay questions.

Check out our visual resources for " Test Taking Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Questions " below!

What is the difference between a short answer and an essay question?

  • Both short-answer and essay questions ask you to demonstrate your knowledge of course material by relating your answer to concepts covered in the course.
  • Essay questions require a thesis (argument) and supporting evidence (from course material - lectures, readings, discussions, and assignments) outlined in several paragraphs, including an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Short-answer questions are more concise than essay answers - think of it as a “mini-essay” - and use a sentence or two to introduce your topic; select a few points to discuss; add a concluding sentence that sums up your response.
  • Review your course material - look for themes within the topics covered, use these to prepare sample questions if your instructor has not given direction on what to expect from essay questions.
  • Create outlines to answer your practice questions. Choose a definite argument or thesis statement and organize supporting evidence logically in body paragraphs. Try a mnemonic (like a rhyme or acronym) to help remember your outline.
  • Practice! Using your outline, try using a timer to write a full response to your practice or sample questions within the exam time limit.
  • Review the question carefully. Think about what it is asking - what are you expected to include?  What material or examples are relevant?
  • Underline keywords in the question to identify the main topic and discussion areas.
  • Plan your time. Keep an eye on the time allowed and how many essay questions you are required to answer. Consider the mark distribution to determine how much time to spend on each question or section.
  • Make a plan. Take a few minutes to brainstorm and plan your response - jot down a brief outline to order your points and arguments before you start to write.
  • Include a thesis statement in your introduction so that your argument is clear, even if you run out of time, and help structure your answer.
  • Write a conclusion , even if brief - use this to bring your ideas together to answer the question and suggest the broader implications.
  • Clearly and concisely answer the question :
  • In your introduction, show that you understand the question and outline how you will answer it.
  • Make one point or argument per paragraph and include one or two pieces of evidence or examples for each point.
  • In your conclusion, summarize the arguments to answer the question.

"Test Taking Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Questions"

Does your next test have short answer or essay questions? Let's look at how to prepare for these type of questions, how to answer these types of questions, and strategies to keep in mind during the exam. Fight exam writer's block and achieve your best marks yet!

  • "Test Taking Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Questions" PDF
  • "Test Taking Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Questions" Video

Looking for more strategies and tips? Check out MUN's Academic Success Centre online!

Carnegie Mellon University. (n.d.). Successful exam strategies. Carnegie Mellon University: Student Academic Success. Retrieved April 1, 2022 from

Memorial University of Newfoundland. (n.d.). Exam strategies: Short answer & essay exams. Memorial University of Newfoundland: Academic Success Centre. Retrieved April 1, 2022 from

Trent University. (n.d.). How to understand and answer free response or essay exam questions. Trent University: Academic Skills. Retrieved April 1, 2022 from

University of Queensland Australia. (n.d.). Exam tips. University of Queensland Australia: Student support, study skills. Retrieved April 1, 2022 from

University of Waterloo. (n.d.). Exam questions: Types, characteristics, and suggestions. University of Waterloo: Centre for Teaching Excellence. Retrieved April 1, 2022 from

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  • The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples

The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

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Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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Short Answer & Essay Tests

Strategies, Ideas, and Recommendations from the faculty Development Literature

General Strategies

Save essay questions for testing higher levels of thought (application, synthesis, and evaluation), not recall facts. Appropriate tasks for essays include: Comparing: Identify the similarities and differences between Relating cause and effect: What are the major causes of...? What would be the most likely effects of...? Justifying: Explain why you agree or disagree with the following statement. Generalizing: State a set of principles that can explain the following events. Inferring: How would character X react to the following? Creating: what would happen if...? Applying: Describe a situation that illustrates the principle of. Analyzing: Find and correct the reasoning errors in the following passage. Evaluating: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of.

There are three drawbacks to giving students a choice. First, some students will waste time trying to decide which questions to answer. Second, you will not know whether all students are equally knowledgeable about all the topics covered on the test. Third, since some questions are likely to be harder than others, the test could be unfair.

Tests that ask only one question are less valid and reliable than those with a wider sampling of test items. In a fifty-minute class period, you may be able to pose three essay questions or ten short answer questions.

To reduce students' anxiety and help them see that you want them to do their best, give them pointers on how to take an essay exam. For example:

  • Survey the entire test quickly, noting the directions and estimating the importance and difficulty of each question. If ideas or answers come to mind, jot them down quickly.
  • Outline each answer before you begin to write. Jot down notes on important points, arrange them in a pattern, and add specific details under each point.

Writing Effective Test Questions

Avoid vague questions that could lead students to different interpretations. If you use the word "how" or "why" in an essay question, students will be better able to develop a clear thesis. As examples of essay and short-answer questions: Poor: What are three types of market organization? In what ways are they different from one another? Better: Define oligopoly. How does oligopoly differ from both perfect competition and monopoly in terms of number of firms, control over price, conditions of entry, cost structure, and long-term profitability? Poor: Name the principles that determined postwar American foreign policy. Better: Describe three principles on which American foreign policy was based between 1945 and 1960; illustrate each of the principles with two actions of the executive branch of government.

If you want students to consider certain aspects or issues in developing their answers, set them out in separate paragraph. Leave the questions on a line by itself.

Use your version to help you revise the question, as needed, and to estimate how much time students will need to complete the question. If you can answer the question in ten minutes, students will probably need twenty to thirty minutes. Use these estimates in determining the number of questions to ask on the exam. Give students advice on how much time to spend on each question.

Decide which specific facts or ideas a student must mention to earn full credit and how you will award partial credit. Below is an example of a holistic scoring rubric used to evaluate essays:

  • Full credit-six points: The essay clearly states a position, provides support for the position, and raises a counterargument or objection and refutes it.
  • Five points: The essay states a position, supports it, and raises a counterargument or objection and refutes it. The essay contains one or more of the following ragged edges: evidence is not uniformly persuasive, counterargument is not a serious threat to the position, some ideas seem out of place.
  • Four points: The essay states a position and raises a counterargument, but neither is well developed. The objection or counterargument may lean toward the trivial. The essay also seems disorganized.
  • Three points: The essay states a position, provides evidence supporting the position, and is well organized. However, the essay does not address possible objections or counterarguments. Thus, even though the essay may be better organized than the essay given four points, it should not receive more than three points.
  • Two points: The essay states a position and provides some support but does not do it very well. Evidence is scanty, trivial, or general. The essay achieves it length largely through repetition of ideas and inclusion of irrelevant information.
  • One point: The essay does not state the student's position on the issue. Instead, it restates the position presented in the question and summarizes evidence discussed in class or in the reading.

Try not to bias your grading by carrying over your perceptions about individual students. Some faculty ask students to put a number or pseudonym on the exam and to place that number / pseudonym on an index card that is turned in with the test, or have students write their names on the last page of the blue book or on the back of the test.

Before you begin grading, you will want an overview of the general level of performance and the range of students' responses.

Identify exams that are excellent, good, adequate, and poor. Use these papers to refresh your memory of the standards by which you are grading and to ensure fairness over the period of time you spend grading.

Shuffle papers before scoring the next question to distribute your fatigue factor randomly. By randomly shuffling papers you also avoid ordering effects.

Don't let handwriting, use of pen or pencil, format (for example, many lists), or other such factors influence your judgment about the intellectual quality of the response.

Write brief notes on strengths and weaknesses to indicate what students have done well and where they need to improve. The process of writing comments also keeps your attention focused on the response. And your comments will refresh your memory if a student wants to talk to you about the exam.

Focus on the organization and flow of the response, not on whether you agree or disagree with the students' ideas. Experiences faculty note, however, that students tend not to read their returned final exams, so you probably do not need to comment extensively on those.

Most faculty tire after reading ten or so responses. Take short breaks to keep up your concentration. Also, try to set limits on how long to spend on each paper so that you maintain you energy level and do not get overwhelmed. However, research suggests that you read all responses to a single question in one sitting to avoid extraneous factors influencing your grading (for example, time of day, temperature, and so on).

Wait two days or so and review a random set of exams without looking at the grades you assigned. Rereading helps you increase your reliability as a grader. If your two score differ, take the average.

This protects students' privacy when you return or they pick up their tests. Returning Essay Exams

A quick turnaround reinforces learning and capitalizes on students' interest in the results. Try to return tests within a week or so.

Give students a copy of the scoring guide or grading criteria you used. Let students know what a good answer included and the most common errors the class made. If you wish, read an example of a good answer and contrast it with a poor answer you created. Give students information on the distribution of scores so they know where they stand.

Some faculty break the class into small groups to discuss answers to the test. Unresolved questions are brought up to the class as a whole.

Ask students to tell you what was particularly difficult or unexpected. Find out how they prepared for the exam and what they wish they had done differently. Pass along to next year's class tips on the specific skills and strategies this class found effective.

Include a copy of the test with your annotations on ways to improve it, the mistakes students made in responding to various question, the distribution of students' performance, and comments that students made about the exam. If possible, keep copies of good and poor exams.

The Strategies, Ideas and Recommendations Here Come Primarily From:

Gross Davis, B. Tools for Teaching. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1993.

McKeachie, W. J. Teaching Tips. (10th ed.) Lexington, Mass.: Heath, 2002.

Walvoord, B. E. and Johnson Anderson, V. Effective Grading. San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1998.

And These Additional Sources... Brooks, P. Working in Subject A Courses. Berkeley: Subject A Program, University of California, 1990.

Cashin, W. E. "Improving Essay Tests." Idea Paper, no. 17. Manhattan: Center for Faculty

Evaluation and Development in Higher Education, Kansas State University, 1987.

Erickson, B. L., and Strommer, D. W. Teaching College Freshmen. San Francisco:

Jossey-Bass, 1991.

Fuhrmann, B. S. and Grasha, A. F. A Practical Handbook for College Teachers. Boston:

Little, Brown, 1983.

Jacobs, L. C. and Chase, C. I. Developing and Using Tests Effectively: A Guide for Faculty.

San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.

Jedrey, C. M. "Grading and Evaluation." In M. M. gullette (ed.), The Art and Craft of Teaching.

Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Lowman, J. Mastering the Techniques of Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1984.

Ory, J. C. Improving Your Test Questions. Urbana:

Office of Instructional Res., University of Illinois, 1985.

Tollefson, S. K. Encouraging Student Writing. Berkeley:

Office of Educational Development, University of California, 1988.

Unruh, D. Test Scoring manual: Guide for Developing and Scoring Course Examinations.

Los Angeles: Office of Instructional Development, University of California, 1988.

Walvoord, B. E. Helping Students Write Well: A Guide for Teachers in All Disciplines.

(2nded.) New York: Modern Language Association, 1986.

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Sample grading rubric an instructor can use to assess students’ work on short essay questions.

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Education Corner

Best Preparation Tips for Short Answer Tests

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Most tests contain at least a few short answer questions. The following are proven study and test preparation strategies that will help improve your performance on short answer/essay questions and tests.

Best Short Answer Test Preparation Tips and Strategies

Study for understanding.

Teachers, professors and instructors typically give short answer and/or essay tests to see how well students have grasped course concepts, their meanings and significance. This has both pros and cons with respect to test preparation and performance.

The con is that you can’t just just memorize information and expect to do well on a short answer test – you must understand course material and concepts.

The pro is that even if you can’t remember a specific term, as long as you have a general understanding of the concept in question, you can still develop an answer that is likely to get you full or partial credit.

When preparing for short answer tests focus on understanding rather than memorization of facts.

Focus on topics and concepts

As with all types of test questions, the best way to prepare is by studying and becoming intimately familiar with course content, concepts and material. During lectures, try to decipher what types of topics and concepts will be covered on the test by looking for hints provided by the professor.

While it’s still important to memorize facts and information, try and do so within the framework of important topics that are being explored and concepts that are being taught.

Employ self testing

Make a guess as to what types of concepts will be covered on a test and create some practice questions to prepare yourself for the test. If accessible, study from previous class tests.

Use flashcards

Many students benefit by creating flashcards. On one side of a card, write definitions or other facts, and on the opposite side, write the definition.

If in doubt, make an educated guess

If you are completely unsure about a question, make an educated guess since there is usually no penalty for doing so. Show your work because teachers often provide partial credit if work is shown. Make sure the work you show is accurate.

Answer the easy questions first

When encountering confusing questions, move on to easier ones. Return to tackle more challenging questions once you’ve answered all the questions for which you know the answer. In some cases, you can decipher clues to answers for difficult questions from questions you’ve already answered.

Read all instructions

It’s critical to carefully read instructions for each short answer question. What exactly is the question asking you? Often short answer questions will ask you to describe, list, compare, contrast, identify, analyze, summarize, or a combination of these. If you describe when you’re supposed to compare, or summarize when you’ve been instructed to analyze, your test performance is going to decrease.

Budget your time

With short answer/essay tests it’s easy to lose track of time. At the beginning of the test check to see how many questions on the test and if the test is divided up into sections. Make sure to allocate a specific amount of time per section and per question.

You don’t want to get halfway through the test and realize you only have a few minutes left. Some short answer questions may be worth substantially more than others. Make sure to allocate time to those questions that are worth the most.

Reread each question

Always reread the question after answering it. It’s not uncommon for a short answer question to have multiple parts. For example: “Compare and contrast Frye’s and Bartky’s accounts of social oppression with respect to gender inequality. List the differences in their views.” Answering only part of the short answer question will likely result in only partial credit.

Ask for clarification

If you don’t understand a question or find it is a bit confusing, ask your instructor for clarification. Don’t be scared to ask. Chances are there are several other students who are struggling to understand it as well.

Be thorough. But be concise

While opinions may differ, most teachers believe a short answer question typically requires a “short” answer. That doesn’t mean an answer lacking depth analysis or information. It simply means an answer that is concise and includes just enough information to accurately and fully answer the question being asked.

Typically an answer that’s longer than necessary isn’t going to cause you to lose points, as long as your information is correct. However, if you include incorrect information in your short answer, you’ll likely lose points.

The 6 Basic Types of Short-answer Questions

There are six basic types of short-answer questions. Understanding each will improve your performance on short-answer quizzes, tests and exams. When answering short-answer questions, make sure the format and type of answer you provide matches the type of question being asked.

1. Definition questions

Definition questions require you to define a concept.

  • Question: “What is a supply curve?”
  • Answer: “A supply curve shows the relationship between the price of a good or service and the quantity supplied. Typically, the price appears on the left vertical axis and the quality supplied on the horizontal axis.”

2. Explanation questions

Explanation questions require you to explain why something is true or how something functions.

  • Question: “Why is the supply curve upward-sloping for most goods and services?”
  • Answer: “The supply curve is upward-sloping because as the price the market pays increases for goods and services the volume that suppliers are willing to produce increases.”

3. Example questions

Example questions simply require a specific real-world example of a concept or phenomenon.

  • Question: “Provide two examples of pairs of goods that are substitutes.”
  • Answer: “Margarine and butter, and tea and coffee are examples of pairs of goods that are substitutes.”

4. Relationship questions

Relationship questions require you to state or show how two or more things relate to one another. Are they complementary? Are they the same? Are they different? Are they opposites? How does the existence of one affect the other? Etc. Relationship questions can be a bit more challenging than other types of short answers but are very doable if you’re prepared.

  • Question: “In a competitive market, what is the relationship between supply and demand?”
  • Answer: “Demand refers to the quality of a good or service consumers are willing to buy at a given price. Supply represents the quantity of a good supplied by producers at various prices. The price resulting from where supply and demand meet is referred to as the equilibrium price.”

5. Calculation questions

As the name suggests, calculations questions require you to calculate or compute a numerical answer or response.

  • Question: “If the demand for used motorcycle purchases in the United States is represented by P = 1000 – .2Q and the supply of used motorcycles is represented by P = 400 + .2Q what is the market equilibrium price and quantity?”
  • Answer: “The market equilibrium price (P) is 700. The market equilibrium quantity (Q) is 1,500.”

6. Graphing questions

Graphing questions typically require an answer in the form of a graph.

  • Question: “Draw a diagram of a supply curve that shows the relationship between quantity supplied and price.”
  • The answer is shown below.

Graphing questions

Short-answer versus Short Essay Questions

Students often confuse short-answer questions with short essay questions. While these two question forms share some common characteristics, they are different. The following are the differences between short answer questions and essay questions that students need to know for test taking.

  • Short Answer: Someone who assigned the material (teacher, professor, etc.) who has an expert level of the information.
  • Short Essay: Someone who has never read or seen the assigned material or topic.

Level of expertise

  • Short Answer: Assumes that the reader of the answer is an expert. The reader of the short answer is checking the knowledge of the author of the answer against a specific standard.
  • Short Essay: Assumes the reader is not familiar or educated on the topic being addressed. As part of the essay an overview should be provided.

Length of answer

  • Short Answer: Typically, very short–no more than 3 to 4 sentences. The more concise the better.
  • Short Essay: Answer may vary in length, but ranges from 200-800 words or more.
  • Short Answer: Typically comes from a very narrow arena of fact-based knowledge. Details and examples provided in answers are usually limited to assigned/required readings.
  • Short Essay: Even though the short essay typically focuses on one specific issue or topic, the information presented in the essay may come from a variety of sources.

Answer format

  • Short Answer: The answer format for a short answer will usually be a single sentence or paragraph. Short answers are concise and word selection is important to maximize effect.
  • Short Essay: The answer format for short essays, unlike short answers, includes at minimum three paragraphs: the introduction; the body; and the conclusion. The introduction provides a general overview. The body provides the detail of the essay and varies from 1-8 paragraphs (200-800+ words). The conclusion is the wrap-up of the essay and reiterates the main points being communicated. It may also suggest an action.

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How to Answer Essay Type Questions in Literature Examinations

Last Updated: November 14, 2023 Approved

This article was co-authored by Tristen Bonacci . Tristen Bonacci is a Licensed English Teacher with more than 20 years of experience. Tristen has taught in both the United States and overseas. She specializes in teaching in a secondary education environment and sharing wisdom with others, no matter the environment. Tristen holds a BA in English Literature from The University of Colorado and an MEd from The University of Phoenix. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 89% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 140,659 times.

Answering essay questions on literature exams can be daunting, especially with timed exams. Before the test, you should have a full understanding of how the different parts of a classical argument fit together to make a whole. The best way to quickly write an organized essay is to outline your argument before you begin your answer. With a little bit of preparation, you can ensure a good grade on your exam.

Writing Your Essay

Step 1 Begin by outlining...

  • Create a bullet point for each point you choose to make in your paper.
  • Your first point should include the introduction, statement of facts, and thesis.
  • You should break up the “proof” or body paragraphs into however many points you laid out in your thesis. If you promised three points, create three bullet points. If you promised four points, create four bullet points. Remember that the body paragraphs must follow the exact order of the thesis.
  • Create a point for the statement of the counterargument. You can either create a new point/paragraph for your refutation of it, or keep it all in one paragraph by making the refutation a subpoint.
  • Create a point for the conclusion.

Step 2 Fill out your outline.

  • If you're using external sources, you should include them in your outline. You don't want to accidentally leave out a great source because you got caught up in the writing and forgot about it.

Step 3 Write your topic sentences into your outline.

  • Use transition words like furthermore, similarly, or indeed to transition between agreeing ideas. [4] X Research source
  • Use "conflict" transition words and phrases to transition between conflicting ideas — like the counterargument and your refutation of it. Examples include however, in contrast, on the other hand, or conversely.

Step 4 Use the outline to write your essay.

  • Make sure to refer back to your outline repeatedly during the writing process. This is the roadmap of your answer. Don't wander away from it and get off-course.

Step 5 Decide when to correct errors.

  • If you're being graded primarily on the content of your argument, leave grammar and spelling editing for your last step.
  • If you're being graded primarily on your grammar and spelling, by all means, correct your errors as you go!
  • In most cases, you won't be graded on one or the other. Keep your specific teacher or standardized test in mind. Have a strategy for when you plan to correct your errors before you take the test.

Step 6 Proofread your essay before submitting it.

  • If you're in an isolated room, read the essay aloud to yourself to look for grammar errors that sound wrong. It's easier to hear mistakes than see them on the page.
  • Read your sentences backwards to look for spelling errors you might skim over if you were reading the sentences normally. [5] X Research source

Structuring Your Argument

Step 1 Learn the six basic parts of the classical oration model.

  • Introduction (exordium)
  • Statement of Facts (narratio)
  • Thesis (partitio)
  • Proof (confirmatio)
  • Refutation (refutatio)
  • Conclusion (peroratio)
  • The introduction, statement of facts, and thesis are often grouped together in the first paragraph of the answer.

Step 2 Invite the reader into your argument in the introduction.

  • Another way to think of the exordium is to consider where the word "introduction" comes from. The prefix "intro" means "inward," as in introspection (looking inward). "Duction" comes from the Latin root "ducere," which means "to lead." This is where we get the modern words duke (one who leads) and orchestra conductor (one who leads together). [7] X Research source [8] X Research source
  • In the introduction, you want to intro + duce, or lead the reader inward, further into your argument.

Step 3 Provide background information in the statement of facts.

  • If your reader already knows the background information, you may be able to skip this section.
  • In Cicero's Latin, this section was called the "narratio," which is where we get the modern word "narrator." The narrator is the voice in a book that gives readers information that can't be delivered through dialogue or action.
  • The word "knowledge" itself shares a root with narration : gnoscere. [10] X Research source In this section, you give the readers the knowledge they need to follow your argument.

Step 4 Break down your argument in your thesis.

  • Cicero's Latin word, partitio, shares a root with the modern word "partition," which means division or separation. When Beyonce sings "Driver roll up the partition, please," she's asking the driver to roll up the window that separates him from the passengers in the back.
  • So the thesis is where you list out the different parts of your argument — your X, Y, and Z — in list form, separately.

Step 5 Show the readers the evidence for your claim in the proof.

  • Note that it's not enough to just list a bunch of quotes and statistics from sources. That's not making an argument — it's restating someone else's information or argument.

Step 6 Refute the counterargument.

  • Don't include a counterargument without refuting it. To refute means to "beat back." [13] X Research source The only reason you include the opposing point of view is to beat it back and strengthen your own position.

Step 7 Synthesize your argument in the conclusion.

  • Do not transition into your conclusion with a signal phrase like "in conclusion" or "in summary." Find a less obvious, more sophisticated transition.

Expert Q&A

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  • Never plagiarize another author's words or ideas. You can fail the assignment or even the entire course, or get suspended or expelled from school Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0

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TOPICS A. Fill-in-the-Blank Items B. Essay Questions C. Scoring Options


Extended Response

Extended responses can be much longer and complex then short responses, but students should be encouraged to remain focused and organized. On the FCAT, students have 14 lines for each answer to an extended response item, and they are advised to allow approximately 10-15 minutes to complete each item. The FCAT extended responses are scored using a 4-point scoring rubric. A complete and correct answer is worth 4 points. A partial answer is worth 1, 2, or 3 points.

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Over 170 Prompts to Inspire Writing and Discussion

Here are all of our Student Opinion questions from the 2020-21 school year. Each question is based on a different New York Times article, interactive feature or video.

short essay type questions

By The Learning Network

Each school day we publish a new Student Opinion question, and students use these writing prompts to reflect on their experiences and identities and respond to current events unfolding around them. To introduce each question, we provide an excerpt from a related New York Times article or Opinion piece as well as a free link to the original article.

During the 2020-21 school year, we asked 176 questions, and you can find them all below or here as a PDF . The questions are divided into two categories — those that provide opportunities for debate and persuasive writing, and those that lend themselves to creative, personal or reflective writing.

Teachers can use these prompts to help students practice narrative and persuasive writing, start classroom debates and even spark conversation between students around the world via our comments section. For more ideas on how to use our Student Opinion questions, we offer a short tutorial along with a nine-minute video on how one high school English teacher and her students use this feature .

Questions for Debate and Persuasive Writing

1. Should Athletes Speak Out On Social and Political Issues? 2. Should All Young People Learn How to Invest in the Stock Market? 3. What Are the Greatest Songs of All Time? 4. Should There Be More Gender Options on Identification Documents? 5. Should We End the Practice of Tipping? 6. Should There Be Separate Social Media Apps for Children? 7. Do Marriage Proposals Still Have a Place in Today’s Society? 8. How Do You Feel About Cancel Culture? 9. Should the United States Decriminalize the Possession of Drugs? 10. Does Reality TV Deserve Its Bad Rap? 11. Should the Death Penalty Be Abolished? 12. How Should Parents Support a Student Who Has Fallen Behind in School? 13. When Is It OK to Be a Snitch? 14. Should People Be Required to Show Proof of Vaccination? 15. How Much Have You and Your Community Changed Since George Floyd’s Death? 16. Can Empathy Be Taught? Should Schools Try to Help Us Feel One Another’s Pain? 17. Should Schools or Employers Be Allowed to Tell People How They Should Wear Their Hair? 18. Is Your Generation Doing Its Part to Strengthen Our Democracy? 19. Should Corporations Take Political Stands? 20. Should We Rename Schools Named for Historical Figures With Ties to Racism, Sexism or Slavery? 21. How Should Schools Hold Students Accountable for Hurting Others? 22. What Ideas Do You Have to Improve Your Favorite Sport? 23. Are Presidential Debates Helpful to Voters? Or Should They Be Scrapped? 24. Is the Electoral College a Problem? Does It Need to Be Fixed? 25. Do You Care Who Sits on the Supreme Court? Should We Care? 26. Should Museums Return Looted Artifacts to Their Countries of Origin? 27. Should Schools Provide Free Pads and Tampons? 28. Should Teachers Be Allowed to Wear Political Symbols? 29. Do You Think People Have Gotten Too Relaxed About Covid? 30. Who Do You Think Should Be Person of the Year for 2020? 31. How Should Racial Slurs in Literature Be Handled in the Classroom? 32. Should There Still Be Snow Days? 33. What Are Your Reactions to the Storming of the Capitol by a Pro-Trump Mob? 34. What Do You Think of the Decision by Tech Companies to Block President Trump? 35. If You Were a Member of Congress, Would You Vote to Impeach President Trump? 36. What Would You Do First if You Were the New President? 37. Who Do You Hope Will Win the 2020 Presidential Election? 38. Should Media Literacy Be a Required Course in School? 39. What Are Your Reactions to the Results of Election 2020? Where Do We Go From Here? 40. How Should We Remember the Problematic Actions of the Nation’s Founders? 41. As Coronavirus Cases Surge, How Should Leaders Decide What Stays Open and What Closes? 42. What Is Your Reaction to the Inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris? 43. How Worried Should We Be About Screen Time During the Pandemic? 44. Should Schools Be Able to Discipline Students for What They Say on Social Media? 45. What Works of Art, Culture and Technology Flopped in 2020? 46. How Do You Feel About Censored Music? 47. Why Do You Think ‘Drivers License’ Became Such a Smash Hit? 48. Justice Ginsburg Fought for Gender Equality. How Close Are We to Achieving That Goal? 49. How Well Do You Think Our Leaders Have Responded to the Coronavirus Crisis? 50. To What Extent Is the Legacy of Slavery and Racism Still Present in America in 2020? 51. How Should We Reimagine Our Schools So That All Students Receive a Quality Education? 52. How Concerned Do You Think We Should Be About the Integrity of the 2020 Election? 53. What Issues in This Election Season Matter Most to You? 54. Is Summer School a Smart Way to Make Up for Learning Lost This School Year? 55. What Is Your Reaction to the Senate’s Acquittal of Former President Trump? 56. What Is the Worst Toy Ever? 57. How Should We Balance Safety and Urgency in Developing a Covid-19 Vaccine? 58. What Are Your Reactions to Oprah’s Interview With Harry and Meghan? 59. Should the Government Provide a Guaranteed Income for Families With Children? 60. Should There Be More Public Restrooms? 61. Should High School-Age Basketball Players Be Able to Get Paid? 62. Should Team Sports Happen This Year? 63. Who Are the Best Musical Artists of the Past Year? What Are the Best Songs? 64. Should We Cancel Student Debt? 65. How Closely Should Actors’ Identities Reflect the Roles They Play? 66. Should White Writers Translate a Black Author’s Work? 67. Would You Buy an NFT? 68. Should Kids Still Learn to Tell Time? 69. Should All Schools Teach Financial Literacy? 70. What Is Your Reaction to the Verdict in the Derek Chauvin Trial? 71. What Is the Best Way to Stop Abusive Language Online? 72. What Are the Underlying Systems That Hold a Society Together? 73. What Grade Would You Give President Biden on His First 100 Days? 74. Should High Schools Post Their Annual College Lists? 75. Are C.E.O.s Paid Too Much? 76. Should We Rethink Thanksgiving? 77. What Is the Best Way to Get Teenagers Vaccinated? 78. Do You Want Your Parents and Grandparents to Get the New Coronavirus Vaccine? 79. What Is Your Reaction to New Guidelines That Loosen Mask Requirements? 80. Who Should We Honor on Our Money? 81. Is Your School’s Dress Code Outdated? 82. Does Everyone Have a Responsibility to Vote? 83. How Is Your Generation Changing Politics?

Questions for Creative and Personal Writing

84. What Does Your Unique Style Say About You? 85. How Do You Spend Your Downtime? 86. Would You Want to Live to 200? 87. How Do You Connect to Your Heritage? 88. What Do You Think Are the Secrets to Happiness? 89. Are You a Sneakerhead? 90. What Role Have Mentors Played in Your Life? 91. If You Could Make Your Own Podcast, What Would It Be About? 92. Have You Ever Felt Pressure to ‘Sell Your Pain’? 93. Do You Think You Make Good Climate Choices? 94. What Does TikTok Mean to You? 95. Do Your Parents Overpraise You? 96. Do You Want to Travel in Space? 97. Do You Feel You’re Friends With Celebrities or Influencers You Follow Online? 98. Would You Eat Food Grown in a Lab? 99. What Makes You Cringe? 100. What Volunteer Work Would You Most Like to Do? 101. How Do You Respond When People Ask, ‘Where Are You From?’ 102. Has a School Assignment or Activity Ever Made You Uncomfortable? 103. How Does Your Identity Inform Your Political Beliefs and Values? 104. Are You an Orchid, a Tulip or a Dandelion? 105. Are You Having a Tough Time Maintaining Friendships These Days? 106. How Is Your Mental Health These Days? 107. Do You Love Writing or Receiving Letters? 108. What Has Television Taught You About Social Class? 109. Are You Easily Distracted? 110. What Objects Bring You Comfort? 111. What Is Your Favorite Memory of PBS? 112. Have You Ever Felt Embarrassed by Your Parents? 113. What Are You Doing to Combat Pandemic Fatigue? 114. Have You Ever Worried About Making a Good First Impression? 115. What Do You Want Your Parents to Know About What It’s Like to Be a Teenager During the Pandemic? 116. How Have You Collaborated From a Distance During the Pandemic? 117. How Important Is It to You to Have Similar Political Beliefs to Your Family and Friends? 118. How Are You Feeling About Winter This Year? 119. Which Celebrity Performer Would You Like to Challenge to a Friendly Battle? 120. How Mentally Tough Are You? 121. What Smells Trigger Powerful Memories for You? 122. What Are You Thankful for This Year? 123. Do You Miss Hugs? 124. Are You a Good Conversationalist? 125. What Habits Have You Started or Left Behind in 2020? 126. What Was the Best Art and Culture You Experienced in 2020? 127. What’s Your Relationship With Masks? 128. What Role Does Religion Play in Your Life? 129. How Will You Be Celebrating the Holidays This Year? 130. What Is Something Good That Happened in 2020? 131. What New Flavor Ideas Do You Have for Your Favorite Foods? 132. What Are Your Hopes and Concerns for the New School Year? 133. How Has 2020 Challenged or Changed You? 134. What Do You Hope for Most in 2021? 135. How Do You View Death? 136. What Is Your Favorite Fact You Learned in 2020? 137. What Are the Places in the World That You Love Most? 138. Have You Ever Experienced ‘Impostor Syndrome’? 139. How Well Do You Get Along With Your Siblings? 140. Do You Talk to Your Family About the Cost of College? 141. Do You Have a Healthy Diet? 142. How Do You Feel About Mask-Slipping? 143. Do You Believe in Manifesting? 144. How Do You Express Yourself Creatively? 145. What Are Your Family’s House Rules During the Covid Crisis? 146. What Online Communities Do You Participate In? 147. Have You Experienced Any Embarrassing Zoom Mishaps? 148. What Does Your Country’s National Anthem Mean to You? 149. Are Sports Just Not the Same Without Spectators in the Stands? 150. Would You Volunteer for a Covid-19 Vaccine Trial? 151. What ‘Old’ Technology Do You Think Is Cool? 152. Have You Ever Tried to Grow Something? 153. How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Relationship to Your Body? 154. How Do You Find New Books, Music, Movies or Television Shows? 155. Are You Nervous About Returning to Normal Life? 156. How Do You Celebrate Spring? 157. How Do You Talk With People Who Don’t Share Your Views? 158. Would You Want to Be a Teacher Someday? 159. What Would You Recommend That Is ‘Overlooked and Underappreciated’? 160. What Children’s Books Have Had the Biggest Impact on You? 161. What Is Your Gender Identity? 162. Have You Hit a Wall? 163. What Is the Code You Live By? 164. Do You Think You Have Experienced ‘Learning Loss’ During the Pandemic? 165. What Are the Most Memorable Things You’ve Seen or Experienced in Nature? 166. Do You Want to Have Children Someday? 167. What Have You Learned About Friendship This Year? 168. What Seemingly Mundane Feats Have You Accomplished? 169. Has a Celebrity Ever Convinced You to Do Something? 170. How Have You Commemorated Milestones During the Pandemic? 171. How Often Do You Read, Watch or Listen to Things Outside of Your Comfort Zone? 172. Do You Think You Live in a Political Bubble? 173. What Is Your Relationship With the Weight-Loss Industry? 174. What Have You Made This Year? 175. How Are You Right Now? 176. What Are You Grateful For?

Want more writing prompts?

You can find even more Student Opinion questions in our 300 Questions and Images to Inspire Argument Writing , 550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing and 130 New Prompts for Argumentative Writing . We also publish daily Picture Prompts , which are image-centered posts that provide space for many different kinds of writing. You can find all of our writing prompts, added as they publish, here .

IELTS Preparation with Liz: Free IELTS Tips and Lessons, 2024

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  • Test Information FAQ
  • Band Scores
  • IELTS Candidate Success Tips
  • Computer IELTS: Pros & Cons
  • How to Prepare
  • Useful Links & Resources
  • Recommended Books
  • Writing Task 1
  • Writing Task 2
  • Speaking Part 1 Topics
  • Speaking Part 2 Topics
  • Speaking Part 3 Topics
  • 100 Essay Questions
  • On The Day Tips
  • Top Results
  • Advanced IELTS

100 IELTS Essay Questions

Below are practice IELTS essay questions and topics for writing task 2. The 100 essay questions have been used many times over the years. The questions are organised under common topics and essay types. IELTS often use the similar topics for their essays but change the wording of the essay question.

In order to prepare well for writing task 2, you should prepare ideas for common topics and then practise applying them to the tasks given (to the essay questions). Also see model essays and tips  for writing task 2.

Below you will find:

  • Essay Questions By Topic
  • Essay Questions by Essay Type

Please also note that my new Grammar E-book is now available in my store along with my Ideas for Essay Topics E-book and Advanced Writing Lessons. To visit store, click here: Liz’s Store

1) Common IELTS Essay Questions

IELTS practice essay questions divided by topic. These topics have been reported by IELTS students in their tests. Essay questions have been recreated as accurately as possible.

  • Art   (5 essay questions)
  • Business & Money   (17 essay questions)
  • Communication & Personality   (20 essay questions)
  • Crime & Punishment   (12 essay questions)
  • Education   (17 essay questions)
  • Environment   (12 essay questions)
  • Family & Children   (8 essay questions)
  • Food & Diet (13 essay questions)
  • Government (6 essay questions)
  • Health   (9 essay questions)
  • Housing, Buildings & Urban Planning (8 essay questions)
  • Language (6 essay questions)
  • Leisure (1 essay question)
  • Media & Advertising   (12 essay questions)
  • Reading  (5 essay questions)
  • Society   (10 essay questions)
  • Space Exploration (3 questions)
  • Sport & Exercise   (6 essay questions)
  • Technology  (6 essay questions)
  • Tourism and Travel   (11 essay questions)
  • Transport  (7 essay questions)
  • Work (17 essay questions)

2) IELTS Essay Questions by Essay Type 

There are 5 main types of essay questions in IELTS writing task 2 (opinion essays, discussion essay, advantage/disadvantage essays, solution essay and direct question essays). Click on the links below to see some sample essay questions for each type.

  • Opinion Essay Questions
  • Discussion Essay Questions
  • Solution Essay Questions
  • Direct Questions Essay Titles 
  • Advantage / Disadvantage Essay Questions


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Ielts topic: urban planning, ielts listening transcripts: when and how to use them, 2024 ielts speaking part 1 topics, happy new year *** 2024 ***, vocabulary for government topic, answers to job application listening lesson.

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Essay question type.

  • Managing questions
  • Question behaviours
  • Question permissions
  • Simple Calculated
  • Drag and drop into text
  • Drag and drop markers
  • Drag and drop onto image
  • Calculated Multichoice
  • Description
  • Embedded Answers (Cloze)
  • Multiple Choice
  • Random Short Answer Matching
  • Select missing words
  • Short-Answer
  • Third-party question types
  • Questions FAQ

Note : This page is about the essay question type in the Quiz activity. For information about the essay question type in a Lesson activity, see the documentation Building Lesson .

  • 1 About the essay question type
  • 2.1 Response options
  • 2.2 Response template
  • 2.3 Grader information
  • 3 Question grading

About the essay question type

The essay question type provides the option of answering by uploading one or more files and/or entering text online. (For longer essays, text or file uploads, you may wish to consider using the Assignment activity rather than this question type.)

Essay questions are created in the same way as other quiz question types. The difference is that essay questions have to be marked manually, and the student will not get a final grade until the teacher has marked their essay.

Creating an essay question

  • If you haven't yet made a quiz, access the Question bank from Course administration>Question bank and click the button 'Create a new question', choosing 'Essay'.
  • If you have made a quiz, access the Edit quiz screen and from the Add drop down, choose 'Add a new question', choosing 'Essay'.
  • Give the question a descriptive name - this allows you to identify it in the Question bank.
  • Enter the question in the 'Question text' field. This will be the title of and information about the essay you wish them to write.
  • Set the 'default mark' and any 'General Feedback' if required. This is text that appears to the student once you have graded their essay.

Response options

  • 'Response format' allows you to choose what is available for the students when typing their essays, for example the regular WYSIWYG editor with or without the option to upload files, or a plain text editor (with no formatting.) No online text means they cannot type any text. You cannot select this if you don't allow attachments, as the students will have nothing to submit. If you have programming students, they may require plain text with monospaced font for their code. You should select 'HTML editor with file picker' if you wish to provide the audio and video recording buttons in the HTML editor.
  • 'Require text' allows you to decide whether or not students must add text into the text editor when they do the question. If you only want them to upload a word-processed file as an essay, then you can set this to 'Text input is optional'. (Note that this setting does not force the student to type text into the text editor; they can still leave it blank and continue to another question.)
  • 'Accepted file types' allows you to specify type(s) of file the students must upload.
  • New in 3.11: You can set a maximum and minimum word count for the Essay question. Learners will be alerted if they write too few or too many words.


Response template

It is possible for a teacher to create a template to scaffold the student's answer in order to give them extra support. The template is then reproduced in the text editor when the student starts to answer the question. See YouTube video Essay scaffold with the Moodle quiz It is also possible to include grading information for teachers marking the essay to refer to as they assess the essays:

Grader information

Here you can store information about the evaluation for the grading persons (teachers), e.g. evaluation criteria, sample solutions, etc.

Question grading

The essay question will not be assigned a grade until it has been reviewed by a teacher and manually graded. Until that happens, the student's grade will be counted as 0 and shown as a - (dash).

To grade essays answer in quizzes using the Boost theme , click on the quiz and then, click the Results tab, in the dropdown menu choose Manual grading . For other themes, click Manual grading from the Quiz results section of your quiz administration block.

Manual grading Moodle 4.png

Then you can choose one question from that quiz, and grade that question for all the students.

Manual grading question4 Moodle 4.png

If you choose the 'Responses' tab, you can browse all the questions from all the students.. and you might discover (in the following image) that some students have nearly identical answers, which suggests cheating...

Manual grading questioncheating Moodle 4.png

When manually grading an essay question, the grader is able to enter a custom comment in response to the essay and assign a score for the essay.

If necessary the teacher can also upload a file such as an image (or even record audio/video) in the essay grading box.

  • Need help with understanding manual grading forum discussion
  • Essay (auto-grade) question type - additional plugin
  • The Essay module for H5P - A free HTML5-based content type that allows students to receive instant feedback to a text that they have composed. Authors can define a set of keywords that will trigger individual responses if they are found or missing in the text. Let students become creative with H5P and Essay in Moodle.
  • AI text question type (essay with auto marking) by Marcus Green

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    Student Resources Answering Short-Answer Essays Tips for Success Many faculty members include short‐ and long‐answer essay questions as a part of their major exams. But what does the faculty member expect from your answer? Your essay answers the question. In an essay exam, most professors want more than just the facts.

  2. How to Write a Short Essay, With Examples

    Parker Yamasaki Updated on August 14, 2023 Students Writing clearly and concisely is one of the best skills you can take from school into professional settings. A great way to practice this kind of writing is with short essays. A short essay is any essay that has a word count of fewer than 1,000 words.


    1. What is an essay question? 2. When should essay questions be used? 3. How should essay questions be constructed? The format of this workbook is suitable for use with seminars or workshops and can be facilitated by an instructor. However, it is primarily designed to be studied alone as a self- directed learning tool.

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    1 of 2 Argue Assess Activity Identify the key verb(s) in the sample questions below. What type of question are you being asked to answer? What type of approach should you use? 1. Discuss the differences between the movie version and the print version of the same story. Use specific examples from each version to argue which version is better. 2.

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    your questions will form the basis of a strong essay. For example, your initial questions about a source may be answered by reading the source more closely. On the other hand, sometimes you will identify a genuine ambiguity or problem in your sources that raises a question that others considering the same sources would also have. In that case, your

  6. Short answer and essay questions

    Short answer and essay questions are types of assessment that are commonly used to evaluate a student's understanding and knowledge. Tips for creating short answer and essay questions Consider longer-answer formats that will better test student knowledge because they do not solely rely on recognition or recall of items.

  7. Focus and Precision: How to Write Essays that Answer the Question

    Step Four: Practice makes perfect. The best way to get really good at making sure you always 'answer the question' is to write essay plans rather than whole pieces. Set aside a few hours, choose a couple of essay questions from past papers, and for each: Write a hypothesis.

  8. Simple Ways to Write a Short Essay (with Pictures)

    Composing the Essay. Download Article. 1. Create an outline for the short essay. Before you begin writing the essay, use an outline to plan out what you want to say in each of your paragraphs. Number your paragraphs 1-3 and jot down a phrase or sentence that sums up the major point you want to make in that paragraph.

  9. Exam Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Exams

    Exam Strategies: Short Answer & Essay Exams. Essay exams involve a significant written component in which you are asked to discuss and expand on a topic. These could include written responses in the form of a formal essay or a detailed short-answer response. Short answer vs essay questions. Preparing for an essay exam. Answering essay questions.

  10. The Four Main Types of Essay

    Frequently asked questions about types of essays Argumentative essays An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations) and analysis.

  11. Short Answer & Essay Tests

    As examples of essay and short-answer questions: Poor: What are three types of market organization? In what ways are they different from one another? Better: Define oligopoly.

  12. Types of questions

    Quotation + Discuss' questions. One of the most common types of essay question is a direct quotation followed by a general task word or phrase like 'Discuss' or 'To what extent do you agree?'. When answering these questions, the most important thing is to work out your argument - what you think about the ideas in the quotation.

  13. How to Write a Good Answer to Exam Essay Questions: 13 Steps

    1 Read the question carefully. Before you get started, make sure that you have read the essay question twice and that you understand what it's asking. Underline or highlight the most important words or phrases in the question to help you stay focused on answering the question. [1] 2 Identify the keywords.

  14. Essay Test Preparation Tips and Strategies

    Being able to identify and becoming familiar with the most common types of essay test questions is key to improving performance on essay exams. The following are 5 of the most common question types you'll find on essay exams. 1. Identify. Identify essay questions ask for short, concise answers and typically do not require a fully developed essay.

  15. Short essay question rubric

    Office of the Provost 3601 Watt Way, GFS 227 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-1691 [email protected] (213) 740-3959. Contact Us

  16. Best Preparation Tips for Short Answer Tests

    Last Updated: January 8, 2024 Most tests contain at least a few short answer questions. The following are proven study and test preparation strategies that will help improve your performance on short answer/essay questions and tests. Contents show Best Short Answer Test Preparation Tips and Strategies Study for understanding

  17. How to Answer Essay Type Questions in Literature Examinations

    4. Break down your argument in your thesis. Depending on how complex and long your argument is, your thesis might be one sentence or two to three sentences. If this is a short-answer question, the thesis should be a single sentence. If you have three hours to answer this question, it might be two or three sentences.

  18. Classroom Assessment

    B. Essay Questions (Short and Extended Response) Essay questions are a more complex version of constructed response assessments. ... Essay questions may appear to be easier to write than multiple choice and other question types, but writing effective essay questions requires a great deal of thought and planning. If an essay question is vague ...

  19. How to Answer Essay Questions on an Exam

    1 03.20.2023 From high school English comprehension exams all the way up to college entrance exams and the GRE, essay questions are a mainstay. They can be broadly broken down into four categories: factual recall, analysis, synthesis, and opinion. Table Of Contents What are the Steps for Answering Essay Questions Properly?

  20. Over 170 Prompts to Inspire Writing and Discussion

    1. Should Athletes Speak Out On Social and Political Issues? 2. Should All Young People Learn How to Invest in the Stock Market? 3. What Are the Greatest Songs of All Time? 4. Should There Be More...

  21. 100 IELTS Essay Questions

    1) Common IELTS Essay Questions IELTS practice essay questions divided by topic. These topics have been reported by IELTS students in their tests. Essay questions have been recreated as accurately as possible. Art (5 essay questions) Business & Money (17 essay questions) Communication & Personality (17 essay questions)

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  24. Essay question type

    About the essay question type. The essay question type provides the option of answering by uploading one or more files and/or entering text online. (For longer essays, text or file uploads, you may wish to consider using the Assignment activity rather than this question type.) Essay questions are created in the same way as other quiz question ...