Short Answer Basics, Part 1 – Theme

Short answer questions, sometimes referred to as short essay questions, are very common: they are a mainstay of state standardized tests as well as teachers and college professors everywhere. But how do you answer them effectively? This video covers the basic elements of a good short answer response and provides a couple of examples:

Here are a couple of handouts I’ve made to go along with the video (click to download the PDF files):

SAQ Basics Handout (includes the two examples I provide in the video)

SAQ worksheet

State standardized tests may have special requirements, so ask your teacher whether your state has published “released tests” and “scoring guides” that you can access. Since I live and taught in Texas, that’s what I’m familiar with. Here is what Texas provides online (please let me know if my information becomes out of date):

STAAR Released Test Questions:

Short answer questions are not tested until high school, so scroll down to the “End-of-Course Assessments” section and click on the English I and English II test forms. Be sure to check the date for the most recent tests, since the types of questions do sometimes change over time. The short answer questions will actually be in the “Reading” section of the test (even though it’s a writing task, it’s a response to what the student has read).

Scoring Guides for SAQ and Essay:

These are critically helpful! There are samples of real student responses to short answer questions (SAQ) and essays – just scroll down to the grade level you’re looking for and click on anything that has “scoring guide” in the title. Use these to train yourself and your students so you know what the state is looking for!

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