Writing questions that stand alone

Every question should be meaningful in and of itself, and should present a definite problem for the learner to solve.

So what does meaningful mean?

If someone who has knowledge about a topic reads a question about it without seeing the answer choices they should be able to answer the question.
For example, if you were to read this question, but could not see the answer choices you’d have no ability to answer the question:

Which of the following is an accurate statement?

  1. A. The Australian government is a confederation of six colonies. 
  2. B. The Australian head of state is the Governor General. 
  3. C. Australian governance consist of seven sovereign parliaments.
Whereas, if you were up on your Australian governance knowledge and you read this question:

How many sovereign parliaments exist in Australia?

you could answer correctly that there a seven sovereign parliaments in Australia.

Or here’s another example. Instead of asking,

Which of the following statements correctly define how tannins affect wine flavour?

You could make this question meaningful by itself by writing,

What characteristics do tannins add to the flavour of wine?

The difference is that a meaningful question primes the learner’s brain for active participation in reaching an answer, making the learning more impactful.
Questions that are not meaningful, and rely on a list of answers to communicate the question, are passive, requiring much less mental energy for the learner to simply select an answer from a list.
Well written questions stand on their own, communicating a problem for the learner to solve with the power of their brain.

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