Study Tips – How to Answer Short Response Questions

Study Tips

Learn to answer short response questions effectively

At APC, we are very aware that for some of our students, studying with APC is their first time undertaking formal tertiary study and they could really benefit from learning tried and true techniques for researching and answering assessment questions.

This is why we developed a series of assessment support videos to help students tackle their study in an effective and time-efficient manner.

In the video above, Ben provides some advice on how to answer short response assessment questions, which are the most common type of questions students will be answering in assessment tasks, from interpreting the question, to conducting research and finally, forming your response.

Firstly, to answer any question correctly, you need to be confident you know what’s being asked.

Breaking down an assessment question

The best way to interpret a question is to break it down into key components.

It can really help to underline these or use the highlighter feature in the PDF.

Identify what you are being asked to do. Look for “instruction words” which are verbs or doing words. For example – define or discuss; or in this case, “Identify”.

Now look for key concepts, which will be nouns, that give you the topic of the question. In this case, “abdomen”.

Finally, you want to identify the limiting words or phrases that reduce the scope of the topic to give focus for your response. In this question it’s, “nine regions”.

Any terms that you’re unsure about, search for a definition on the internet.

Researching assessment answers in the learner guide

Now that we understand the question, let’s do some research to find the answer, and the student learner guide is your first port of call.

The easiest way to hunt for answers in the learner guide is to use the search or find function. To access this feature, press Ctrl+F if you’re on a Windows computer or Command+F if on a Mac.

Now type in a keyword or phrase from the assessment question. In this case I’m going with “abdomen regions”.

You’ll see all search results for this keyword to browse and find your answer.

You may need to search using other words within the question or words with similar meaning to identify the appropriate information. (e.g. abdominal)

Conducting research on the internet

If you can’t find the answer in the learner guide, your next best bet is to search the internet.

It’s not called the world-WIDE web for nothing, so it’s best to be specific by searching a short phrase from the question, which may include key concepts and limiting words.

In the search results, look for reputable websites from government or established institutions, like the clinical guidelines for Australian State Ambulance Services. Or find sources that are well cited and written by experts in the field, such as articles on ‘Khan academy’.

Avoid websites like Wikipedia and articles without citations.

If you still can’t find an answer, you might try broader or narrower search terms.

When you use a source, make sure you copy the webpage url from the address bar to include as your reference below your answer.

Writing the assessment response

Now let’s input your response.

Look to the instruction word in the question, in this case, “identify”, which tells me I only need to input the term, not a definition or explanation.

For some questions there may be a minimum word count specified. If not, just be succinct and straight to the point.

Unless you are asked to answer “in your own words”, then short responses can usually be copied and pasted from the source, as long as you are providing a reference.

Final checks for assessment responses

Now, check that your answer meets the following criteria:

  • Is it correct – addressing the topic and limiting words in the question?
  • Is it up-to-date?
  • Does your response follow the instruction words of the question and the word count?
  • Is it your own work or have you included a reference?

Keep in mind the end goal in mind

A final word of advice.

Remember that the end goal of your study is for you to gain the foundational knowledge you need to provide quality health care in the real world, not just to be able to locate answers and pump out those assessments! So, if you find that you are trying to answer questions without really understanding the topic, then it’s time to go back to the books and gain more knowledge and understanding before continuing with your assessment.


What is your career journey?

To discover how you can become a fully qualified Ambulance Paramedic or Basic/Advanced Life Support Medic, complete a personalised paramedical career development plan.