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B. Developing Short Answer and Completion Questions


        Short answer and completion items are both forms of "supply" items in which students have to provide the response, rather than selecting a response from among several provided in the test. Supply items are frequently used for recall of information and for problem solving in math and science (where the student is asked to supply the answer to a calculation or the result of a formula).

        Educational objectives frequently state that the student will "know" certain information, procedures, etc. When"knowing" is defined as "recall," "remember," "label," "list," "state," "define," "describe," or "name," those objectives can be measured with short answer or completion items.

        These types of questions have some advantages. Like true-false questions, short-answer and completion items can be written fairly easily. Students can complete a large number of items in a fairly short time (unless they involve working complex math problems), thus sampling a lot of content. Since the student has to generate the answers, the possibility of guessing the correct answers to these questions is greatly reduced when compared with true-false questions. While these items can be easy to score, poor student handwriting poses a potential problem.

        Completion items are those in which a statement is written with blanks substituted for one or more words which the student is to supply. Example 1 shows the format for a typical completion item. Students sometimes write their answers directly on the blanks embedded in the sentences, but scoring can be facilitated by providing answer blanks in a column along either the right or left side of the paper (Example 1b).

  1a There are ______ inches in a foot.
  1b There are ______ inches in a foot.
          Short answer questions are similar to completion items except that a question is written in its entirety, with the student supplying a correct response of one word or a short phrase. The use of a short answer question (Example 2) may be preferable to the completion item in Example 1 if it makes the question more specific and leads to the one answer that you are seeking. Also, it may be easier for younger children to respond to a question than to fill in a blank completing a sentence.
  2 How many inches are there in a foot?
____________ inches
          A potential problem with both Short Answer and Completion items is that unless the items are well written, students may give an answer that is not the one you wanted when you wrote the item, but one which is also correct. It takes careful attention to write the item with enough specificity that the answer you are seeking is the only correct one.
          In Example 3a, the teacher wanted to know if the students remembered the year in which Columbus landed. Unfortunately other answers could be supplied relating to the season of the year, month, weather conditions, etc. Examples 3b and 3c show modifications that retain the completion format, while Example 3d has changed to the short-answer type of question. Note that both 3c and 3d provide a place for the student to write the answers down the right side of the paper for ease of grading.
  3a Columbus landed in this country in __________ .
  3b Columbus landed in this country in the year _________ .
  3c Columbus landed in this country in the year __________.      
  3d In what year did Columbus land in this country?
          The definition of a "short answer" question varies among the textbook authors. Sometimes "short-answer" refers to responses that may be a sentence or more in length (while not as long as an "essay" question) (Example 4). At other times it denotes a word (Example 5) or series of related terms (Example 6), phrase, list (Example 7), number (Example 8), or symbol (Example 9) to complete a statement or respond to a question.
  4 Define the vocabulary words listed below:
      Vegetarian ____________________________________________
      Vegan _______________________________________________
      Carnivore ____________________________________________
      Herbivore ____________________________________________
  5 What scientific law is illustrated when a leaf falls from a tree limb to the ground? ______________________
  6 In the paragraph below, name the part of speech that is underlined. Write the name of the part of speech in the blank to the right corresponding to the letter labeling the word.
    James (a) was anxious to begin the trip.
    He happily climbed (b) into the back of the car.
    James and his parents were going to (c) the zoo.
  7 Name the three primary colors
  8 What is the diameter of a circle with a circumference of 12 inches? Round your answer to two decimal places.     

  9 What are the symbols on the periodic table for the following elements:  
Silver     ____________
Nitrogen     ____________
Calcium     ____________
Potassium    ____________
Silver    ____________
 Not a link: Current module is Short Answer and Completion Questions
  Most of the following guidelines apply to both short answer and completion items. Guidelines that apply ONLY to one type of item are listed separately.
  The requested answer should be brief and specific.
  Statements should not be quoted directly from the text.
  Answer blanks for short-answer items should be in the same place on the page (along the left or right margin) to aid in scoring, unless it creates confusion for the students. Separate answer blanks can also be provided in this same way for completion items, as shown in Example 10.
  10 The last two states to be admitted to the United States are (a) in the year (b) and (c) in the year (d) .
(a) _________
(b) _________
(c) _________
(d) _________
  Directions for responding (including spelling requirements and use of sentences, if appropriate) should be provided.
  There should be only one blank in an item unless the terms are part of a series.
  The wording/grammar in the statement should not provide clues to the answer ("a/an" "is/are").
  If the answer is a number, indicate the unit of measurement (pounds, cents, dollars, etc.) and the degree of specificity (three decimal places) that you require.
  If you are trying to determine whether students know a process, use an example that focuses on the process rather than computational skills. Use numbers that are easy to compute. Example 11a below has a greater potential for mathematical errors than example 11b.
11a What is the average of the following numbers: 59 1/2, 83 1/2, and 44
11b What is the average of the following numbers: 63, 86, and 40
  The questions should measure accomplishment of objectives appropriately.
  The questions should be at an appropriate reading level for the students.
  Blanks should be the same length to avoid giving clues about the respective answers.
  Completion Questions Only
  Only key or important words should be replaced by blanks in completion items.
  Embedded blanks should be the same length.
  Embedded blanks should be near the end of the sentence rather than at the beginning so that the student has an opportunity to formulate a framework before encountering the missing word or phrase.
  Issues in Scoring
  One issue that may arise is how to score answers that are correct but not the ones the teacher was looking for.
  Another issue is whether to award partial credit for questions in which the student correctly supplies the word to fill one blank while producing an incorrect response for a second blank in the same sentence.
  Since these items involve writing, the teacher should decide in advance (and inform the students in advance) if errors in spelling will be penalized.
  If the answer is to be in sentence form, a similar decision must be made about the grammatical correctness of the sentence and what to do in case the response is a fragment or phrase rather than a sentence.
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