Non Restricted Essay Tests
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 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
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
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.
1. Examinee is permitted freedom of response.
2. Higher levels of mental functioning.
e.g. Synthesis and evaluation can be tested.
DISADVANTAGES: - SCORER UNRELIABILITY
1. Scoring is easier.
2. Minimizes somewhat the problems of reliability in
- By restricting the student’s response, we are giving up a
measure of the student’s ability to synthesize ideas and
express them in a logical, coherent fashion.
ADVANTAGES OF THE ESSAY TEST
1. Easier to prepare than Multiple-Choice.
2. The only means to assess an examinee’s ability to
compose an answer and present it in effective
3. Tests student’s ability to supply rather than select
the correct answer.
4. It helps to induce a “good” effect on student
5. Students prefer them over Multiple-Choice tests.
LIMITATIONS OF ESSAY TEST
1. Poor/limited content sampling,
therefore, poor content validity.
2. Low scorer reliability.
3. Student fails to understand the
questions and therefore, is not
sure how to respond.
4. Amount of time required to read
and grade the essay.
WRITING GOOD ESSAY QUESTIONS
SOME GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS:
1. Give adequate time and thought to the preparation of essay
a) Measure the intended objective.
b) Wording is unambiguous
i.e. Simple and clear to the students.
c) The question is reasonable and can be answered by the
2. The question should be written, so that it will elicit the type of
behavior you want to measure.
3. A well-constructed essay question should establish a framework
within which the student operates.
ABSENCE OF FRAMEWORK
TO PROVIDE FRAMEWORK THE TEACHER SHOULD:
a) Delimit the area covered by the question.
b) Use words that themselves give directions.
c) “AIM” the student to the desired response.
e.g. We would like you to think and organize
along these lines . . . . . . etc.
d) Indicate the value of the question and the time to be spent
in answering it.
4. Decide in advance what factors (other than content) will be considered in the evaluation.
clarity of expression, ... etc.
5. Do not provide optional questions. WHY?
a) Valid comparisons of achievement?
b) Difficult to construct questions of equal difficulty.
- lenient in grading difficult questions?
- severe in grading easy questions?
c) Motivation to study all the material?
Optional questions are justified when:
i) students are not taught common materials.
ii) there are deviations from a common syllabus
from class to class.
6. Use a relatively large number of questions requiring shorter answers (about 1\2 page) rather than just a few questions involving long answers (2 - 3 pages).
WHY? a) Broader sampling of content.
b) Answers can be read more rapidly.
c) Easier to “aim” the student to the desired response.
7. Don’t start with words such as “list”, “who”, “what”. These words tend to elicit responses that require only recall of factual information.
the length of response
8. Adapt to the maturity level
complexity of the of the student
question and answer
9. Use the novel type of question wherever feasible.
10. Prepare a scoring key/model answer before the papers are
Global scoring method
A. Analytical Method (“point-score” method):
The model answer is broken down into specific points. The student’s score is based upon the number of points contained in his/her answer.
Factors to consider in assigning point value:
i) Time needed to respond.
ii) Complexity of the question.
iii) The emphasis placed on that content
area in the instructional phase.
Analytical Scoring Method
1. Can yield very reliable scores.
2. The very process of preparing the detailed
answer may reveal such errors as:
- faulty wording
- extreme difficulty
- complexity of the question
- unrealistic time limits
3. The fine subdivision of the model answer can
make it easier to discuss the grade given to
1. It is very laborious and time-consuming.
2. In attempting to identify the elements,
undue attention may be given to superficial
aspects of the answer.
B. GLOBAL SCORING (HOLISTIC/RATING METHOD)
- The rater is asked to establish standards or anchor points for the essay by:
a) preparing own model answers.
b) selecting papers already written and let the actual
responses establish the various anchor points.
The rater is then instructed to read the response rapidly, form a general impression, and using some standard, assign a rating to the response.
i.e. A SINGLE OVERALL JUDGMENT OF THE
QUALITY OF A PAPER.
ADVANTAGES: Very effective when large number of essays
are to be read.
DISADVANTAGES: 1. Somewhat subjective.
2. Rather difficult to discuss the grade
given to the student.
FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN SCORING ESSAY TEST
1. Be consistent in your grading.
2. Grade only one question at a time for all papers.
3. Randomly shuffle the papers before grading them.
4. Try to score all responses to a particular question without
5. Grade the response anonymously to reduce personal bias.
6. The mechanics of expression should be judged separately from
what the student writes.
grammar, ... etc.
7. If possible, obtain 2 independent readings of the
test and use the average as the final score.
Have the same reader grade the papers twice.
8. Provide comments and correct errors
a) as an opportunity to teach the students.
b) to explain method of grade assignment.
9. Set realistic standard.
- not too lenient, not too harsh.
It provides immediate feedback to both student
1. Can determine how well the student can
organize and synthesize his ideas and
2. Requires student to supply the correct
answer no guessing.
3. Permits free response. Student can ask for
clarification regarding ambiguous questions.
4. Permits detailed probing.
5. For special students.
1. Very limited sampling of content.
2. Low rater reliability.
3. Time-consuming and costly.
4. Advantageous to the highly articulate
5. Often encourages lack of planning.
6. No record of examinee’s response for