‘Revision for teachers’ – Different types of questions in tests & exams

If you google the words ‘teachers setting exam papers’ it takes but 0.55 seconds for 160 000 000 results to pop up!

If there is one thing that this proves, it is probably that sometimes a bit of help speeds up the process of setting a test or exam paper, especially when time is of the essence.

Keep this check list on your desk to serve as a quick reminder:

Revision list: Different types of questions in tests/exam papers

Questions using wh-words (and how)

These questions usually start with one of the following:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • Which?
  • How?

Yes/No Questions

Yes/No questions are closed questions – there are only two possible responses. After agreeing/disagreeing with the statement, a motivation is required for the point of view that is supported.

(Also see True/False questions.)

Multiple Choice questions

Multiple Choice questions consist of the 1st half of the question followed by 3 – 5 possible answers; the learner chooses the correct answer.

These questions can cover a broad range of content; the focus is usually on names, facts, key terms, definitions, concepts, theories (and examples thereof), similarities and differences.

A good multiple choice question tends to have what appears to be more than one correct answer; the learner has to determine which answer is ‘more correct’.

When setting multiple choice questions:

  • use your own words as much as possible; do not use words straight out of the textbook.
  • avoid long, complex sentences, ambiguous language, and generalisations.
  • Avoid using ‘all/none of the above’.

Keep in mind that it takes more time to set, than to mark, multiple choice questions.

True/False questions

True/False questions are only composed of a statement. The learner responds to the statement by indicating whether it is true or false. In addition, the learner must motivate the answer given, or if false, the statement must be corrected.

These questions are mostly used to test knowledge of a broad range of content or to check for popular misconceptions.

When setting true/false questions:

– use your own words as much as possible.

– use one central idea in each question.

– avoid using negatives, long/complex sentences,

  ambiguous language and generalisations.

They are fairly time-consuming to create, but rather quick to mark.

Mix & Match questions

Mix & Match questions require learners to pair a fact / definition / statement with a definition / example / theory.

Detailed knowledge is required from the learner in order to do well in this type of question.

When setting Mix & Match questions:

  • avoid long, complex sentences and too many options.
  • use logically ordered choices e.g., chronological or alphabetical where applicable.

These questions are not time-consuming to set and quick to mark.

Short Answer questions

A Short Answer question could require an answer of between a few words to a paragraph or two.

The number of marks allocated serves as an indication of the length of answer required.

These questions can also take the form of ‘fill-in-the-blank’ questions.

They are ideal to test knowledge of key terms, definitions, names, facts, concepts, theories and examples thereof, similarities and differences. They can also be used to test higher thinking skills, including analysis or evaluation.

Essay questions

An answer to an essay question could be anything from a few paragraphs to a few pages.

The number of marks allocated serves as an indication of the length of answer required.

Past exam papers provide a good resource of examples of essay questions.