Answering Short Essay Questions – How To Get An A

Do you find writing short answers and short essay exams difficult? Read on to find out how to prepare for and answer this type of question and get your best score yet. 

What’s the difference between short-answer questions and short-essay questions?

Short-answer questions

With this type of question you are usually required to demonstrate your knowledge of a specific area or concept.  The question is usually directed at a specific area of the syllabus. The format used to answer this type of question is:

1. Introduction – write a sentence or two to introduce your topic.

2. Body – explain your answer giving some supporting evidence where possible.

3. Conclusion – a concluding sentence that sums up your response.

Short-essay questions

Short-essay questions are similar to short-answer question in that they typically focus on one issue or topic area but in this case, your answer will be wider and include a greater variety of sources.

Your answer should follow the same introduction, body, conclusion format as above but will usually require an argument and supporting evidence covering several paragraphs.

When revising you should concentrate on understanding and application rather than just memorizing facts.

The questions are usually written to identify how well you have grasped basic the concepts of the subject as well as its significance and application. If you can gain a general understanding of the subject area or concept in the question, you will be able to give a reasonable answer.

During lectures, you should try to understand which topics and concepts will be covered in the test by looking for hints from your teacher or professor.

Answering short answer and essay questions

1. Read the question carefully

Underline keywords in the question to identify the main topic and discussion areas. You should concentrate on understanding:

  • What you are expected to do?
  • What you need to include?
  • What material or examples are relevant?

It is important that you carefully read all the instructions. Short-answer questions will often require you to:

  • Describe
  • Explain
  • List
  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Identify
  • Analyze
  • Summarize.

Re-read the question 2 or 3 times to make sure you fully understand what is required.

2. Plan your time

Calculate how much time you have to answer the question. Look at the mark distribution to decide how much time you should spend on each question or section.

You will not usually have time to re-write your answers so you should aim to write your answer in one go. To do this you should make a quick plan of what you intend to include.

3. Plan your content

Take a few minutes to plan your answer. Make a brief list of titles, keywords and main points you need to cover before you start writing.

4. Introduction

Your introduction needs to show that you understand the question and give an outline of how you will answer it. It should make the subject and your argument clear.

5. Body

Answer the question clearly and concisely. Make one point or argument per paragraph and include one or two pieces of evidence or examples to support each point you are making.

6. Conclusion

Your conclusion should summarize your answer and bring your ideas together. You can also suggest broader implications.

7. Proofreading

If you have time you should re-read your answer and make corrections. If you have other questions to answer then you should complete those first and return to proofreading at the end of the allotted time.

Add Your Cleverness

Make suggestions, edit, and add your Cleverness to this page in the comments or click  HERE.

Clever People Love To Share

It’s FREE to share, just reference Thank you for sharing Cleverness with others.

Join The Clever Community

It’s easy to get FREE promotion for your site, product, or service. All you have to do is share your Cleverness with us directly at  or find out more about being part of our Clever Community

More Cleverness

Communication Skills – BUSINESS WRITING For Success

The 7 C’s Of Effective Communication

Main Image by Piyapong Saydaung from Pixabay

Posted in Other.