Tips for Answering Short and Long Writing Responses

In our last post, we gave you tips on how to succeed in answering multiple-choice questions in tests. However, multiple-choice questions are not the only types of questions you should be focusing on as you study. Short and long answer questions might also take up a huge chunk of your test.

Many students underestimate short answer questions, as they seem easier to complete. In reality, students risk running out of time and rushing to write their answers. On the contrary, even though long answer questions require more information, focusing a lot of your attention on them will forgo extra time to answer other questions and to review.

To help improve your writing and time management, remember these suggestions on how to tackle short and long writing questions:

Read through all questions thoroughly

It’s critical to carefully read instructions for each short answer question. Oftentimes, questions will ask you to do one of the following: describe, summarize, compare, contrast, identify, or analyze. Being aware of these keywords is crucial if you want to write a concise and relevant response.

Budget your time

While answering short and long writing questions, it can be easy to lose track of time. A good tip is to skim over the entire test before you begin writing. Check how many marks are allocated to each part of the test. Doing this will help you determine how much time you should spend on each question. Also, remember that some short answer questions may be worth substantially more, so make sure to spend more time on these and less time on multiple-choice.

Look at how many marks each question is worth

The marks allocated for each question will foreshadow how much information you need to provide. For example, if a question is worth 5 marks, you should write 5 distinct supporting details in your answer. By doing so, you will be sure to only include a variety of relevant information required to answer the question.

Create an outline

A setback from answering long answer questions is it can be easy to go off on a tangent. A great way to stay focused in your answer is to prepare a strong outline. For example, when writing a body paragraph, your structure should look something like this:

  • Introductory sentence
  • Point #1
  • Example #1
  • Point #2
  • Example #2
  • Point #3
  • Example #3
  • Concluding sentence

Make sure your answers are organized in a logical manner with concise and related information.

Focus on topics and concepts

In order to do well on tests, make sure to prepare and study beforehand. Though you can try to memorize facts and information, it’s best to be familiar with the course content as a whole in order to comprehend how key concepts connect to the topics in your test.

Be thorough but concise

Short and long answer questions require a lot of information to answer the question completely. However, some students answer with only a few sentences, which are sometimes not relevant to the question itself. As a result, marks are deducted for insufficient ideas and vagueness. Though it may be longer than necessary, it is best to write as much information to answer the question, but at the same time be as concise as possible. 

Proofread and edit answers for coherency

Proofreading is critical in writing. Even though you have a time limit for your tests, find the time to go over your answers. Proofread for spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and edit for overall flow, paragraph structure, and tone.


Use the tips above when writing short and long writing responses during tests. Make sure to read each question thoroughly to know what you are being asked to do. Budget your time wisely, and prepare a solid outline as this will aid in writing clear and concise answers on your test (and your writing in general). Even more so, proofread and edit your answers to catch any errors or gaps in the paragraph structure. Aligned with a developed outline, these tips will assist you in acing your tests. Good luck!

Published by

The Literary Tutor

We are English tutors helping students ignite their imagination through reading and discover their unique voice through writing.

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