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Short and long answer questions

question marks arranged in a decorative mannerTry to make an educated guess as to what your professor might ask you on short or long answer questions. Most likely, professors are going to pick the larger topics or concepts to ask students about.

Take a look at your course syllabus and find out what large concepts are required for you to understand by the end of the course. These can usually be found in the learning outcomes and class schedule / weekly headings sections of the syllabus.

Make sure you take the time to study and truly understand the content. Don't just memorize the definitions; instead, dig deeper. This is when you may take a look at larger concepts, topics and theories, and create a concept map or flashcards to ensure a better understanding. You can view active learning strategies on the study skills page for some tips.

Here are some quick tips for these types of questions:

  • Read each question carefully to ensure you understand what is being asked of you to answer.
    • The wording of a question will often provide directions for how it should be answered. Pay close attention to the verb in the question to guide your answer:
      • Is the question asking you to define, identify, demonstrate, describe, explain, or something similar?
      • After you answer the question, go back to confirm you answered it related to the keywords mentioned above.
  • Aim for quality, not quantity.
    • Lengthy answers are only effective when each sentence is relative to the question. Don’t just write to fill up the page, but to show you understand the scope of the question.
  • Questions with greater weight require more writing, so ensure you use your time accordingly.


Frederiks, Anita, Kate Derrington, and Cristy Bartlett. (20 January 2021). Types of Exams. In N. Anderson and W. Hargreaves (Eds.), Academic Success. University of Southern Queensland. Accessed at: