Difference Between Open and Closed Questions

Open vs Closed Questions

The difference between open and closed questions lie in the type of answer they expect to have. Now, first of all consider these situations. If someone asks your name, you can have only one answer to the question. But, if you are asked to tell about your family background, you will have to answer it in detail using all information that you have. If someone asks about the weather, it is a simple question, and you can answer it in a single word or in a single sentence. But, if the person asking about the weather is new to the area and asks the causes behind the weather, you might have to come up with a lengthy answer based upon your geographical knowledge. Do you see the differences between these two different types of questions now? One is called an open question while the other is referred to as a closed question. Let us take a closer look and seek other differences between open and closed questions.

What is a Closed Question?

A closed question is a simple question that expects you to give a short answer. This short answer can be a single word or a short phrase. The answers to closed questions, generally, have one answer or limited options such as Yes/No or True/False, or choose one among the few, like in MCQ. For example, if you have taken an exam where you had to select from one of the four alternatives given against each question, you know you were facing closed-ended questions as you just had to tick one of the alternatives. On the examiner’s part too, when the questions are closed-ended, they will generate either a correct or wrong answer, which makes the task of an examiner easier. Even researchers use closed questions to see what people think. With closed questions, researchers can make a quick analysis of the answers. Here are some examples for closed questions.

What is your name?

What is the name of your school?

Are you feeling okay?

Is that man coming towards us?

If you look at all the above questions, you will see that they can be answered with short answers. The answer for the first one is your name. Then, the second question gets the name of your school as the answer. For the third question and the fourth you can either say yes or no. They are one word answers.

Difference Between Open and Closed Questions

What is your name?’

What is an Open Question?

An open question is a question that expects you to give a long answer. These questions are asked expecting you to give a lengthy, descriptive answer. If you think about the examinations you have faced, you will remember that some questions in those papers expect you to write lengthy answers. This is an example of open questions. Here you cannot just write a single word or a short phrase as an answer. You have to give your answer in detail.

Also, in an exam where there are open-ended questions, the examiner’s knowledge is also tested as much as the candidate while evaluating the answer sheet. Researchers make use of both open ended and close ended questions to elucidate responses from the subjects through their questionnaires. It takes a lot of time to come to a conclusion with open ended questions. However, there are instances when a researcher prefers to go with open ended questions as they generate a lot more responses that are varied in content and tell a lot about the personality of the candidate. Now, have a look at the following examples.

What do you think about the current political state of your country?

Why do you like Shakespeare?

What did you do during Christmas holidays?

How did you get to New York from your home?

All these questions expect the respondent to answer with lengthy answers. You simply cannot answer them with just one or two words. The first two questions are asking your opinion on two subjects. You just cannot tell your opinion in one single word. So, the answer will be lengthy. Then, the third and fourth questions expect you to describe situations. You can only describe situations using lengthy answers.

You must have seen both quizzes, as well as a round of long questions and answers sessions, in your school and on TV. There is no doubt that quizzes are like 2 minutes noodles and look exciting. But long current affair programs on a topic, where a host conducts a debate and participants come up with their views and opinions, generate much more information than a closed ended question and answer session.

 Open vs Closed Questions

‘Why do you like Shakespeare?’

What is the difference between Open and Closed Questions?

• Definition of Open and Closed Questions:

• Closed questions are those questions that have one correct answer or that give limited options to the respondents to answer.

• Open ended questions are those questions that do not have a perfect answer and require a person to come up with additional details and information.

• Examples:

• Closed Questions:

• What is your name, what is your height, what is your address, etc.

• Are you okay, Is this pen yours, Our country is self-sufficient in wheat production, is it true or false, etc.

• Multiple choice questions where a candidate has to choose one of the alternatives.

• Open Questions:

• What do you think about the title of the play, where did you go during the holidays, why do you look unhappy, etc.

• Response:

• Closed ended questions get short answers.

• Open ended questions get long answers.

• Application:

• Closed Questions:

• Closed questions are used to begin a conversation by asking simple questions.

• To see whether someone has understood what you said also you use closed questions.

• Open Questions:

• To develop a conversation further by making the other person talk we use open questions.

• To find more about the respondent by letting him or her answer we use open questions.

• Advantages:

• Closed questions are to the point. So, the idea is clear.

• Open questions help you to explore the respondents’s personality and opinions.

• Disadvantages:

• Closed questions are sometimes too restricted.

• Open questions provide lengthy answers. Sometimes, finding an exact opinion of a person is hard because of these lengthy answers.

It is clear from all these observances that the main point of differentiation between a closed and an open question pertains to the kind of response each one generates. Both closed, as well as open ended questions have their use and researchers make use of both types to gain an insight into a subject.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Smiling girl by Tiffany Washko (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Shakespeare via Wikicommons (Public Domain)