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Open-Response (Essay) Questions

The challenge in writing for open-repsonse questions is to select the best of what you know about the topic and write about it clearly and effectively in a limited timeframe.

Strategy for Answering Open-Response Questions

In answering open-response questions, also called essay questions, there are several steps that you can follow:

  1. Read the question carefully. You may have to read the question several times to make sure that you understand it.
  2. Understand what you are being asked to do. Open-response questions ask you to do something specific. Look for key words such as classify, compare, contrast, define, describe, discuss, evaluate, explain, illustrate, prove, etc. Make sure you know what you are supposed to do in your answer.
  3. Rephrase the question. Make it into a thesis statement (topic sentence) for your response. For example, the question "Compare the British and American forms of government" can be rephrased as the topic sentence, "The British and American forms of government are not as different as they might first appear."
  4. Think before you write. Make notes or a list on your test sheet or scrap paper about the important information you need to include.
  5. Make a brief outline. You can do this by numbering your notes in the order you plan to cover them. First list the points that you know well. Manage your time, so that you can cover all the strongest points.
  6. Write your answer. Write concisely to save time and space, but do not use contractions or abbreviations. Be careful of spelling and grammar. If your answer is not written clearly, your test score will suffer.
  7. Revise and proofread as carefully as time permits

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Last Updated: December 15, 2008