Constructed Response

Constructed Response Items

The three main types of constructed response items are described below. 

Short Answer

Students supply a phrase, sentence, explanation or illustration in response to a direct question. 

Short answer items are a useful tool for measuring learning when you want students to solve problems, apply knowledge, or demonstrate creative or critical thinking. Possibilities for their use are endless and they can be combined with other item types; for example, you might ask students to create a basic illustration of an object or organism, label its parts, and explain its functions. 

To construct good items: 

  • Be careful with your wording so that the required response is relatively brief and specific   
  • If you are looking for a numerical answer, specify the number of digits and units in which the answer should be expressed  


Students supply a word, number, or symbol in response to an incomplete sentence. 

Fill-in the blank items require a student to know the answer, and minimize guessing. 

To construct good items: 

  • Reword statements so they do not come directly from the class textbook or lecture slides
    • If your goal is to assess students’ understanding of course concepts, not their ability to memorize specifically-worded phrases from the textbook, rewording statements is a good strategy 
  • Don’t give away clues in the statement
    • Use blank spaces that are equal in length
    • Avoid grammatical clues
      • For example, leaving the word “an” before a blank indicates that the answer starts with a vowel or vowel sound 
  • Keep items manageable
    • Provide adequate space for answering
    • Limit the number of blank spaces in each statement so that there is sufficient contextual information to fill in each blank space

Label Diagram

Students label the designated parts of a diagram. 

To construct good items: 

  • Keep drawings simple, clear, and neat
  • Provide clear, concise directions about what is to be labeled
  • Provide enough room to place labels in the appropriate locations


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