Basic Concepts Selected Response Constructed Response  


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


B. Essay Questions (Short and Extended Response)

Essay questions are a more complex version of constructed response assessments. With essay questions, there is one general question or proposition, and the student is asked to respond in writing. This type of assessment is very powerful -- it allows the students to express themselves and demonstrate their reasoning related to a topic. Essay questions often demand the use of higher level thinking skills, such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

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, it will be much more difficult for the students to answer and much more difficult for the instructor to score. Well-written essay questions have the following features:

Essay questions are used both as formative assessments (in classrooms) and summative assessments (on standardized tests). There are 2 major categories of essay questions -- short response (also referred to as restricted or brief ) and extended response.

Short Response

Short response questions are more focused and constrained than extended response questions. For example, a short response might ask a student to "write an example," "list three reasons," or "compare and contrast two techniques." The short response items on the Florida assessment (FCAT) are designed to take about 5 minutes to complete and the student is allowed up to 8 lines for each answer. The short responses are scored using a 2-point scoring rubric. A complete and correct answer is worth 2 points. A partial answer is worth 1 point.

Sample Short Response Question 
(10th Grade Reading)

How are the scrub jay and the mockingbird different? Support your answer with details and information from the article.

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.

Sample Extended Response Question 
(5th Grade Science)

Robert is designing a demonstration to display at his school’s science fair. He will show how changing the position of a fulcrum on a lever changes the amount of force needed to lift an object. To do this, Robert will use a piece of wood for a lever and a block of wood to act as a fulcrum. He plans to move the fulcrum to different places on the lever to see how its placement affects the force needed to lift an object.

Part A  Identify at least two other actions that would make Robert’s demonstration better.

Part B  Explain why each action would improve the demonstration.



Try This

  1. Review the recommendations in Constructed Response: Connecting Performance and Assessment.
  2. Select a topic that is relevant to your classroom and write two constructed response items. For each item, note the alignment to standards, student prompt, scoring guide, and example of a correct response.

Continue to Section C
| Basic Concepts | Selected Response | Constructed Response

This course was developed in partnership between the Pinellas School
and the Florida Center for Instructional Technology at USF.

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