How do you create effective study questions?

Study questions are a great way to help you prepare for an exam or test. They help you review the course material and practice applying it to questions — just like you’ll do during the test.

The key to doing this effectively is to create study questions that force you to use the same skills you’ll use during the exam. 

Back in high school, you had to remember, understand and apply new information. But in university, you’re expected to demonstrate higher levels of learning. You also have to analyze, evaluate and create something to demonstrate your knowledge.

When you’re making study questions, break them down into these six categories, starting from the simplest ones (remember) and working your way up to the most complex ones (create).

Remember

  • Key words: Who, what, identify, recall
  • Questions that require you to quickly recall specific information
  • Examples:
    • Who…? What…? Where…? How…?

Understand

  • Key words: Interpret, summarize, give an example of
  • Questions that require you to organize and select facts and ideas
  • Examples:
    • Re-tell in your own words ____.
    • What is the main idea of _____?
    • What difference exists between _____?
    • Write a brief outline of _____.

Apply

  • Key Words: Construct, demonstrate, predict, show that
  • Questions that require you to demonstrate use of facts, rules and principles
  • Examples:
    • How is ____ an  example of_____?
    • How is _____ related to_____?
    • Why is _____ significant?
    • What difference exists between _____?

Analyze

  • Key words: Break down, what is the relationship between, compare
  • Questions that require you to separate a whole into component parts
  • Examples:
    • Classify_____according to_____.
    • What are the features of_____?
    • How does_____compare/contrast with_____?

Evaluate

  • Key words: Judge, defend, evaluate, critique
  • Questions that require you to combine ideas to form a new whole
  • Examples:
    • What ideas can you add to_____?
    • What solutions would you suggest for _____?
    • What might happen if you combine_____with_____?
    • How would you design a new_____?

Create

  • Key words: Create, compose, design, prove
  • Questions that require you to develop opinions, judgements or decisions
  • Examples:
    • Do you agree that_____? Explain.
    • Prioritize according to_____.
    • What criteria would you use to assess?
    • How would you decide about_____?

Tip: Questions in the higher stages—analyze, estimate and create —will typically have higher grades attached to them!  

Study question tips and tricks 

  • Make sure to have at least one question for each of the six categories above (remember to create) 

  • Refer to your notes, quizzes and course material when you’re creating questions 

  • Try to find the topics that the instructor emphasized in the lectures and make sure to include these in your questions 

  • Write down your questions and put the paper somewhere visible  

  • Work through the questions as part of your test or exam review 

  • Try saying the answers our loud or writing them down Answer the questions in your own words 

  • Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know all the answers. Review the material again and go back to the questions you struggled with

Looking for more help preparing for tests and exams? Explore Quick Tips and Tools.