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:
- They specify how the students should respond.
- They provide information about the value/weight of the question
and how it will be scored.
- They emphasize higher-level thinking skills.
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 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 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.