Misuse of essay question

Recalling information which requires no higher mental processes. e.g. What policies have been used in the U.S. to counteract inflation?

Types of essay question

Extended-response items

  • allows student to determine the length and complexity of response is called an extended response essay item.

  • e.g. Compare and contrast the presidential administrations of Bush and Clinton. Consider economic, social, and military policies. Avoid taking a position in support of either president. Your response will be graded on objectivity, accuracy, organization, and clarity.

  • to assess the ability to evaluate, to organize, and to select viewpoints.

Restricted-response items

  • poses a specific problem for which the student must recall proper information, organize it in a suitable manner, derive a defensible conclusion, and express it within the limits of the posed problem is called a restricted-response essay item.

  • e.g. List the major political similarities and differences between U.S. participation in the Vietnamese War and the Persian Gulf War. Limit your answer to one page. Your score will depend on accuracy, organization, and brevity.

  • to assess knowledge, comprehension, and applications types of learning outcomes.

Start essay questions with:

  • Compare and contrast

  • Give reasons for

  • Give original examples of

  • Predict what would happen if

Don't start essay questions with:

  • What

  • Who

  • When

  • List

Enhance reliability of essay questions

  • The task is spelled out

  • Limits are defined

  • Policy on spelling, punctuation, and grammar is indicated.


Write two essay questions using both an extended-response format and a restricted-response format. Your extended-response question should be targeted to measure a synthesis or evaluation objective, while the latter should be targeted to measure a comprehension, application, or analysis objective.