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Constructed Response Questions

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In most states, constructed response questions (CRQs) are part of educational testing for teachers. These questions require the test-taker to produce or construct the answer and are considered an additional measure to better assess test-takers’ subject knowledge. CRQs can be as simple as writing a sentence or two – or as complex as designing a complete lesson plan.

Multiple choice tests can measure factual knowledge, but CRQs measure skills like:

  • organizing thoughts into clearly planned communication while using appropriate language. An example might be writing your own definition of each of the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and then developing a question for each level.
  • providing explanations for your responses. An example might be explaining why you came to your conclusions about the best way to handle this situation.
  • demonstrating higher-level thinking skills and concurrently encouraging the use of such skills. Higher-level thinking typically includes both critical thinking and problem solving. These skills are seen in determining cause and effect, comparing and contrasting, categorizing, drawing conclusions, or synthesizing information from a variety of sources. The goal is to help students think and participate in our information-rich, ever-changing world rather than just view it as an outsider. An example might be taking what you have learned about classroom management and using it to determine what your first day as a classroom teacher might look like. From that, you might explain how you would solve two students who refuse to do their work and instead disrupt the class.

Strategies to Use When Answering a CRQ

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The first point to remember when approaching any kind of test is obviously knowing what will be covered on the test. Find out the specific objectives in order to study appropriate material. When taking an exam with CRQs, you will not be able to choose the correct answer as in multiple-choice questions, but will be expected to generate correct information from your own subject knowledge. It is important to use the appropriate vocabulary on CRQ answers; a quality study guide, like one from 240 Tutoring, can ensure that you are utilizing aligned content and appropriate terminology. It is also essential to properly pace yourself during the exam in order to allow time to construct a quality CRQ response. 240 Tutoring study guides break down the each exam’s structure and provide timed practice to help you understand the best pacing techniques.

The next strategy for answering a CRQ is the same for learners of all ages and also applies to responding to multiple-choice questions. READ AND RE-READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY!! Even though you may think this reminder is unnecessary, the fact is that MANY mistakes are made from misunderstanding what is being asked rather than not knowing the information. Instead of quickly reading through the question and assuming you understand it, take the time to review and internalize what is being asked. Doing so will allow you to avoid making a costly mistake and risk potentially failing your exam. Re-reading the question prompt is an easy way to keep yourself on track to pass your test.

There are several important questions to ask yourself as you re-read your CRQ:

  • “What are the most important parts of this question?”
  • “Exactly what is this question asking me to do?”
  • “Is the answer stated explicitly in what I am viewing – such as a written lesson, graphs, charts, etc.?”
  • “Is the question asking me to connect something that I am viewing with information that I already know?”

Strategies to use in responding to these questions might include:

  • Highlighting or underlining key terms such as explaindesigndrawillustrate, etc.
  • Jotting down key points of the question, including each item that you are asked to identify/explain in your answer.
  • Making a list of the reasons/details that you will use to support your answers.

By going through these simple steps, you can accurately identify the question and then respond to each part of the question.

Remember that making a list of words is not typically an appropriate way to answer a CRQ. These kinds of questions expect you to use the knowledge you have acquired about a topic and produce or construct something with that knowledge. CRQs can measure the sophistication of your intelligence and also how well you as a teacher are able to communicate your ideas and knowledge.

Basic Writing Process

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  • Re-state the question simply and accurately in the form of a complete statement at the end of the introductory paragraph. This should form your thesis statement which directly responds to the question being asked and serves as a type of “roadmap” for your response.
  • Create an outline of the body paragraphs that elaborate on the thesis statement.
  • Next, start forming paragraphs with details. You might include ordering or organizing words such as begin withfirstsecondthennextfinally, and in conclusion. The number of paragraphs should reflect the number of points asked for in the questions. A prompt might say something like “Give three main reasons for teaching reading skills in all classrooms.” Your response should then include an opening paragraph and three paragraphs that include details of each of the reasons.
  • Write a closing paragraph that adequately summarizes each main point of the body paragraphs – what comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. The first sentence of the conclusion should rephrase your thesis statement. The second sentence should reiterate how the ideas described in the body paragraphs correspond to your thesis statement.
  • Read carefully through your answer and check for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling mistakes that can be easily corrected.
  • Re-read your answer one more time and ask yourself, “Did I answer the question?” and “Is my response clearly written so that it makes sense?”

TIPS: The most important parts of a CRQ are the introduction, the first and last sentence of each paragraph, and the conclusion. Each introduction sentence to a paragraph should introduce the concepts of the paragraph and how those concepts relate to the thesis statement. The thesis statement is the most important part of any CRQ response. You should have a well-formed thesis statement before writing your CRQ.

Scoring CRQs

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Constructed responses are typically graded with a numeric rubric. This could be a 2-1-0 rating, a 3-2-1-0 rating, or a 4-3-2-1-0 rating. A scoring guide for a CRQ rubric might look something look like this:

Score point 4

  • Clearly responds to every detail of the question.
  • Communicates each explanation clearly.
  • Explanations are supported with highly-connected details.

Score point 3

  • Clearly responds to most of the details of the question.
  • Provides explanations but not clearly and specifically.
  • Ideas are loosely connected.
  • Explanations are from part of the text rather than the entire text.

Score point 2

  • Responds to some of the details of the question.
  • Provides a list of words rather than clear explanations.
  • Fabricated response that is not based on passage support.
  • Very narrow focus of the question/problem.

Score point 1

  • Responds to only a few of the details of the question.
  • Provides minimal explanations with unsupported or minimal details.
  • Draws inaccurate conclusions.

Score point 0

  • Provides only irrelevant information to the question.
  • Indicates a misunderstanding of the question prompt.

Examples of CRQs

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CRQs measure complex, higher level and critical thinking skills. The following are some examples of prompts that test-takers might encounter:

  • Literature — Write an essay comparing and contrasting two poems, stories, or plays, including details supporting your response.
  • Mathematics — Write a mathematical equation to solve a problem presented in words or graphs. Develop a word problem based on a given mathematical equation.
  • Biology — Describe in detail how a biological process occurs in a plant and then explain how it enhances the plant’s ability to survive or to reproduce.
  • History — Write an essay comparing two instances of political process that occurred concurrently or at different times in different regions of the world.