Questions to Assess Comprehension

Here are some tips to consider when testing Bloom’s learning objective, Comprehension (Bloom and Krathwohl, 1956.
  •  In the case of assessing comprehension you will now be testing the student’s ability to understanding the meaning of the subject matter they have studied.
  •  It might be the case you require an essay question to assess comprehension however it again, may be more effective to in-keep with knowledge and assess the student’s comprehension in more concise short answer question types or to choose multiple choice question types.
  •  It would be beneficial to choose the question in accordance with the action verb. So if you were asking the student to discuss, describe, paraphrase or review, an essay question would likely be the best question type to use.  However, if you were asking the student to locate or select then it would be advantageous to present your question as multiple choice. 

Note: It is not recommended that you use an either/or question structure past the ‘Knowledge’ stage of the six learning outcomes as the answers are limited and would be very difficult to manipulate to assess anything other than factual knowledge.

Consider that when writing essay questions you are opening some answers to the test  marker’s subjectivity therefore it may be more effective to attempt to use action verbs such as describe, discuss or summarize in multiple choice questions.  This also allows you to bring standardization to your answers.

Example 1: Summarise the plot of Charles Dickens' 'Great Expectations' in under 100 words.

This type of question would require human marking and marking criteria whilst still being subject to bias due to its’ nature.

However you could change this into a multiple choice format, as shown in the example below:

Example 2: Select the correct summary of Charles Dickens' 'Great Expectations' from the three summaries presented below

A)  A journey through a boy named Pip's life in which he shows kindness to an escaped convict and later realises this encounter impacted the rest of his life

B)  A story about a man named Dominic who built his own hot air balloon and flew to the top of Mount Everest, before building a house at its' peak

C)  A children's story about three badgers who set off on a journey to meet a wise owl so they can get their wishes granted.


This question now has a set correct answer and is now free from the risk of subjectivity. Dependant on how you require the exam to be marked – select the question type accordingly.

Suggested Question Types 

Note: The purpose of these articles is to provide you with general advice in the fields of assessment and testing. These articles are not intended to replace any regulations or instructions provided by your organisation, but may be used in conjunction with these materials to support the assessment process.

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