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Getting Smarter through Language

How to Answer and Elaborate on Open-Ended Questions Effectively (Page 1)
(A-Level, Basic Writing Skill)

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About Open-Ended Questions and Answers

Some questions are called Yes-No questions because you can answer them with a “yes” or a “no.” Open-ended questions are questions that you need more than a “yes” or “no” answer. You answer by giving information..

When you answer an open-ended question, you can give a very simple answer. You can also provide details to make your answer clear and thorough.


The problem when answering open-ended questions is to give very short answers. In this lesson, we will explore strategies for elaborating on answers to open-ended questions so that your answer is clear and thorough. You can also apply these strategies when answering such questions orally.

In the Language Classroom

People frequently ask open-ended questions because they want information from you. For example, someone can ask you “What do you think about this book?” or “Why didn’t you go to the party yesterday?”

In the language classroom, instructors ask a lot of open-ended questions because they want you to develop and practice written and spoken skills. Even very simple open-ended questions gives you the opportunity to practice; however, if you only give simple answers, you will not practice very much To improve your speaking and writing skills, you should elaborate on your answers (that is, you should give more information).

Example of a short answer without and with elaboration

A very brief answer to an oral open-ended question will not give you the opportunity to practice or use what you are learning.

Teacher:“What do you usually do on weekends?”

Student:”Nothing special.”

Instead of such a short answer, you can elaborate on it (add information and make it more thorough).

Teacher:“What do you usually do on weekend?

Student:”Nothing special. I like to sleep late on Saturdays. Sometimes I go to the park or go visit a friend. When the weather is bad, I read a book or watch movies. On Sundays, I stay home and watch TV.”

Up Next: How to Answer and Elaborate on Questions

Continue the lesson to learn techniques you can use to answer questions and elaborate on your answers effectively.

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