Introduction to Writing Questions

Why Write Effective Questions



  • The types of questions teachers ask influence what and how students study, read, practice, etc.
  • The questions you ask should match what you expect students to learn.
  • Questions should not give away the answers or be unreasonably difficult.
  • Teachers need to step back and evaluate whether patterns they learned when they were asked questions in classes are good patterns to follow.
  • Penn State has computer-based tools to facilitate asking questions, analyzing outcomes, and providing feedback. Knowing how to write effective questions is critical to using these tools effectively.


  • Item - one question
  • Item analysis - identifies items that differentiate students on their knowledge of the material. Also provides an indicator of question difficulty.
  • Level of question - the level of learning into which the question falls, from very concrete facts to more abstract levels that include
    • interpretation
    • application
    • analysis
    • synthesis.

Special thanks to The Schreyer Institute for their contributions to these documents.