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Studying & Test Taking

Short Answer

Short Answer questions can be difficult for students. While not as lengthy as an essay question, you are still expected to cover enough material in the question to get full marks.

Unlike multiple choice and true/false questions, short answer questions have no possible answers written down for you—you have to recall and summarize ideas in your own words.

Despite the added difficulty, there are still some tricks you can use when writing responses to short answer questions.

Keyword Clues in Short Answer Questions

Here are some typical words (instructions) you might find in a short-answer test and their meaning. Understanding the question ensures that you respond to it fully—and earn full marks!

Compare Examine qualities/characteristics to determine similarities.
Define Write clear, specific definitions.
Outline Provide main points with supporting details.
Discuss Analyze information, list pros/cons.
Relate Explain connections/associations.
Explain Clarify and interpret material.
Evaluate Discuss advantages and limitations.

Short Answer Quick Tips

  • Read the questions carefully: Take your time to make sure you fully understand what is being asked of you.
  • Do not over analyze: Go with your first instinct on your answer.
  • Don't leave the answer blank! You can still get partial marks for having some of the answer.
  • Make sure you answer the entire question: That's why reading the question carefully is so important.
  • Check how many marks each question is worth: Each point you write down will be worth one mark in your final grade. For example, if the short answer question is worth five (5) marks, write down five (5) points in your answer.