How to Answer an Open Response Question


Open Response Questions may give some students the impression that they are free to answer the question in any format they want. However, open response questions are not only graded for their content, but also for their clarity and format. Responding to an open response question in a standardized manner will also help students develop a more focused response, which in turn helps them get higher points on the question. It is very likely that readers have a limited amount of time to read the response and are looking to read the answer without having to weaving through disorganized content.

  • Respond in the five-paragraph format for long open response questions. The five-paragraph format includes an introduction, two supporting paragraphs and a conclusion. The format helps writers be clear and focuses in their response. Readers will see that and grade accordingly.

  • Use the same vocabulary and terms that are used in the question. This is important for open response questions in all subjects. If the question uses an adjective to describe a literary or historical character, use that same adjective.

  • Avoid using first and second person tense unless specifically asked to do so in the question. For instance, do not say, "I think the point is..." Instead, start with the point. Never address the reader personally.

  • Cite specific evidence such as facts, names and dates. Include quotations to prove points, as long as they are relevant to the question. Paraphrase if necessary but always remember to cite the quotes and paraphrased quotes.

  • Double check for grammar mistakes. Do not use slang words or phrases and avoid word contractions. Try to be as professional and academic in the response as possible.

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