Exam layout: types of questions you will encounter in most evaluation tests

Written by Andres Bryant. Posted in Family

Students don’t know what to expect from many exams because some professors don’t mention what types of questions they are going to include in the exam’s layout. Understanding the various types of questions and what approach is the most recommended in solving them should help any student go through tests much easier and faster than before. Each type of question tests knowledge in a different manner and some of them are more appropriate for certain subjects than others. Here is a list of the most common types of questions used in exam layouts:

Multiple choice

Multiple choice questions include a stem and a series of potential answers. The professors can include one or more distractors (wrong answers) to test the knowledge of the students. You will be required to choose one or more correct answers. The stem is often taken straight out of manuals and textbooks, but this is not a recommended practice as it encourages mechanic studying. Students should expect questions that are inspired from textbooks, but rearranged according to the professor’s liking. This way, professors make sure that their students understand the information they teach. A benefit of multiple-choice questions would be that they are solved quickly and graded effectively, leaving no room for subjectivity.

Gap items

Fill-in-the-blank items are a form of short-answer questions and they are often used in exams. A gap item would look something like this: “The following selection, sung by Historicus, comes from a well-known __________.”. Such questions are used to test basic knowledge and they are relevant for subjects where terms and facts are studied on a daily basis. These questions are also fast to solve and it involves a slight level of subjectivity. For instance, students can use synonyms instead of the term mentioned in the textbook which is an answer that can still be considered correct, even though the answer is different from everyone else’s. Unlike multiple choice, gap items are not exclusively based on recognition. If a professor wants to test your knowledge in terms of definitions, expect gap items.

True/False items

True/False items are simple sentences that can be either correct or incorrect. As a student, you have only two options. Just as in the case of multiple-choice questions, solving these items is based on recognition and course content familiarization. You will encounter this type of questions in pop quizzes or other quick assessment tests. The downside of these items is that students have a 50% chance of getting the answer right, even though they don’t actually know the answer to the question.


Essays might be the most complicated types of questions included in a test. They require complex answers that involve describing your understanding in regard to a certain topic. Essays also demonstrate creativity and vocabulary capacity. You can no longer bluff your answer when it comes to essays. Instead, the grader will get to test your level of cognition in terms of analysis and synthesis. Essays are often included in final exams.
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