Constructed Response Questions

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

Multiple choice tests can measure factual knowledge, but CRQ are used to measure such skills as:

  • the ability to organize thoughts into clearly planned communication while using appropriate language. An example might be to write your own definition of each of the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Next, develop a question for each level.
  • the ability to provide explanations for one’s responses. An example might be to carefully explain why you came to your conclusions about the best way to handle this situation.
  • the ability to demonstrate higher level thinking skills while at the same time encouraging the use of such skills. Higher level thinking typically includes both critical thinking and problem solving. Some of these skills include determining cause and effect, comparing and contrasting, categorizing, drawing conclusions, 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: Based on what you have learned about classroom management, what will your first day as a classroom teacher look like? Next, explain how you would solve two students who refuse to do their work and disrupt the class.

Strategies to Use When Answering a Constructed Response Question

The first point to remember when approaching any kind of test is obviously to know what is going to be covered on the test. Find out the specific objectives in order that you study appropriate material. When taking an exam with Constructed Response Questions, you are not going to be able to choose the correct answer as in multiple-choice questions, but will be expected to generate correct information from your repertoire of knowledge on the subject. It is important to use the appropriate vocabulary on CRQ answers; a quality study guide, such as the one at 240Tutoring, can ensure that individuals are up-to-date with the appropriate terminology. This might include new or unfamiliar vocabulary that is included in many good study guides. It is also essential to properly pace yourself during the exam in order to allow an adequate amount of time to construct a quality CRQ response; 240Tutoring study guides break down the structure of each exam and help students understand the best pacing techniques.

The next strategy for answering a CRQ is the same for learners of all ages and the same for responding to multiple-choice questions. READ AND RE-READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY!! Even though you may think that this reminder is unnecessary, the fact is that MANY mistakes are made from misunderstanding what is being asked rather than not knowing the information. This happens when a test-taker quickly reads through questions and assumes that he/she understands the question. No matter what the reason – a mistake remains a mistake – and such a mistake can result in failing an exam. Re-reading the question prompt can be the difference between passing and failing.

There are several important questions to ask yourself as you are re-reading the 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:

  • Highlight or underline key terms such as explain, design, draw, illustrate, etc.
  • Jot down key points of the question, including each item that you are asked to identify/explain in your answer.
  • Make a list of the reasons/details that you will use to support your answers.

By going through these simple steps, the test-taker can accurately identify the question and then respond to every single part question.

Remember that making a list of words is not typically an appropriate way to answer a CRQ. These kinds of questions expect the test-taker to use the knowledge they have acquired about a topic and produce/construct something with that knowledge. CRQs can measure sophistication of intelligence and also how well teachers are able to communicate their ideas and knowledge.

Basic Writing Process

  • Restate 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 the paper.
  • Create an outline of the body paragraphs that elaborate upon the thesis statement.
  • Next, start forming paragraphs with details. You might include ordering or organizing words such as begin with, first, second, then, next, finally, and in conclusion. The number of paragraphs should reflect the number of points asked for in the questions. A typical example would be a question such as “Give three main reasons for teaching reading skills in all classrooms.” There should be 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 – a paragraph that comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. The first sentence of the conclusion should rephrase the thesis statement. The second sentence should reiterate how the ideas described in the body paragraphs correspond to the thesis statement.
  • Read carefully through your answer and check for grammar, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.
  • Reread 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 the CRQ.

Scoring of Constructed Responses

Constructed responses are typically graded with some kind of rubric which might have either 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

Constructed‑response questions are a way of measuring complex, higher level and critical thinking skills. The following are some examples of situations/tasks 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.