Strategies for Short Answer Questions

All short answer sections are marked for Topic Development and Use of Conventions. Topic Development is marked in 10-point increments up to 30 possible points. Use of Conventions is marked in 10-point increments up to 20 points. There are three subtypes of Short Answer question: Close Reading, Short Writing, and Main Idea.

The 2017 OSSLT Scoring Guide is a great resource with many annotated examples of student work. It only covers a Main Idea question, though, so review of other years' scoring guides is recommended to get a full view of the other types of questions.

In the materials released by EQAO, the examples which scored at a passing level were approximately 60 words. Because the size of students' writing varies so much, that should be a good target for students to aim for if number of lines is unclear.

Requirements for Short Answer Questions

Close Reading

In these questions, the student is asked to answer a specific question with evidence from the text. The question is phrased as:

[question]? Use specific details from the selection to explain your answer.

The Topic Development rubrics for these questions require two things for full marks:

  1. Identifying a relevant specific detail in the selection
  2. Clearly showing how it answers the question

When answering these questions, students should make sure to restrict their explanations to evidence from the text only. Focusing on the two elements above will help reduce distraction and improve concision.

Short Writing

Short Writing questions allow the student to integrate their personal experience into the answer. The question is phrased in different ways, but always says that the student should include their personal opinion. Here are two examples:

What piece of clothing best expresses your personality? Use specific details to explain how it conveys who you are.

Identify one action you take in your daily life to be healthy. Use specific details to explain how this action contributes to your health.

Short Writing questions have similar requirements to Close Reading questions. The student needs to identify something specific in their lives and explain how it answers the question.

Several years ago, I volunteered to mark the OSSLT and was marking the question

If you could visit anywhere in the world, which place would you visit? Explain why.

We were told that "I would go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower" would be a full mark answer because they student identified a place and a specific reason to go. Sometimes it's not the number or words, but just making sure to answer the question fully.

Main Idea

In these questions, the student is asked to answer a specific question with evidence from the text. The question is phrased as:

State a main idea of this selection, and provide one specific detail from the selection that supports it.

Many students struggle to find the main idea of these selections. One strategy is to combine the first and last sentence of these selections. The student will need to restate the idea in their own words (and can't just connect the two sentences without modification), but this strategy typically gets pretty close to a usable main idea.

Specificity of the supporting detail(s) is also considered. Wherever possible, use numbers, places, or other specific details instead of paraphrasing or referring to them obliquely.