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Creating Effective Fill-in-the-Blank Questions


Students taking a test in classroom
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Teachers are faced with writing objective tests and quizzes throughout the year. The main types of objective questions that teachers typically choose to include are multiple choice, matching, true-false, and fill-in-the-blank. Most teachers attempt to get a mix of these types of questions in order to best cover the objectives that were part of the lesson plan.

Fill-in-the-blank questions are a common type of question due to their ease of creation and usefulness in classes across the curriculum. They are considered an objective question because there is only one possible answer that is correct. They are typically used to measure a wide variety of relatively simple skills and specific knowledge. These include the:

  • Knowledge of terms
  • Knowledge of principles, methods, or procedures
  • Knowledge of specific facts
  • Simple interpretation of data
There are a number of advantages to fill-in-the-blank questions. They provide an excellent means for measuring specific knowledge, they reduce guessing by the students, and they force the student to supply the answer. In other words, teachers can get a real feel for what their students actually know. These questions work well across a variety of classes. Following are a few examples:
  • Math teachers use these questions when they want the student to provide the answer without showing their work. Example: -12 7 = _____.
  • Science and Social Studies teachers can use these questions to easily assess whether students have learned basic concepts. Example: The atomic number of Oxygen is _____.
  • Language Arts teachers can use these questions to identify quotes, characters, and other basic concepts. Example: I am the Canterbury Tales pilgrim who was married five times. _____.
  • Foreign language teachers find these types of questions useful because they allow the teacher to judge not only the student's understanding of a particular word, but also how it should be written. Example: J'ai _____ (hungry).

Constructing Excellent Fill-In-The-Blank Questions

Fill-in-the-blank questions seem quite easy to create. With these types of questions, you do not have to come up with answer choices as you do for multiple choice questions. However, even though they appear to be easy, realize that there are a number of issues that might arise when creating these types of questions. Following are some tips and suggestions that you can use as you write these questions for your class assessments.
  1. Only use fill-in-the-blank questions for testing major points, not specific details.
  2. Be certain that your question has only one possible answer. This is a common mistake that often leads to extra work on your part.
  3. Indicate the units and degree of precision expected. For example, on a math question whose answer is a number with decimal places, make sure that you say how many decimal places you want the student to include.
  4. Omit only key words.
  5. Avoid too many blanks in one item. It is best to only have one or two blanks for students to fill in per question.
  6. When possible, put blanks near the end of the item.
  7. Do not provide clues by adjusting the length of the blank or the number of blanks.

Limitations of Fill-In-The-Blank Questions

There are a number of limitations that teachers should understand when using fill-in-the-blank questions:
  • They are poor for measuring complex learning tasks. Instead, they are typically used for general knowledge questions on Bloom's Taxonomy.
  • They must be written very specifically and carefully (as with all items).
  • Students who are poor spellers might experience problems. It is important for you to decide if spelling is going to count against the student and if so for how many points.
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