Open-ended question definition: Open-ended questions are questions that have unlimited response options.
Close-ended question definition: Close-ended questions are questions that have limited response options.
What is an Open-ended Question?
Open-ended questions are questions that allow for various response options. Open-ended questions do not expect a particular answer. Rather, they allow the individual providing the response to answer however he chooses.
Examples of Open-ended Questions
- Where did you go today?
- What was your childhood like?
- How did you decide to enter this profession?
- When would you like to visit the museum?
Open-ended questions are common in job interviews.
What is a Close-ended Question?
Close-ended questions are questions that do not allow for various response options. Close-ended questions expect a particular answer.
The answers to close-ended questions are limited and require certain answers.
Typically, close-ended questions lend themselves to “yes” or “no” responses. Furthermore, close-ended questions are usually specific in nature.
Examples of Close-ended Questions
- Did you attend the conference?
- Will you eat dinner with us?
- Do you like vanilla ice cream?
- When were you born?
As you can see, the answers to these questions will be much less involved than those of the open question.
Open-End Questions vs. Close-Ended Questions
Open-ended questions and close-ended questions are different in that they elicit very different responses.
The following questions illustrate close- and open-ended questions side-by-side. The questions are similar in subject matter, but the responses will vary depending on the question style.
Open-ended vs. Close-ended Questions:
- What is your favorite ice cream flavor? / Do you like chocolate ice cream?
- How are you feeling? / Are you feeling well?
- What are you plans this evening? / Do you have dinner plans?
- What homework do you have to complete? / Do you have math homework?
- Where is your shirt? / Is your shirt in the closet?
- Where should I buy a new blouse? / Should I buy a blouse at the mall?
- When is your birthday? / Is your birthday in May?
- What books did you read this summer? / Did you read a book from the suggested list?
- Where is your next vacation? / Do you think you will go to Europe soon?
- How did you meet your husband? / Are you married?
As you can see from these examples, each question type brings out a different kind of response. Close-ended questions are more specific, while open-ended ones are much more “open.”
How Is Each Question Used?
Open-ended questions are best used when you are trying to learn about a particular subject. They are best when engaging in a meaningful conversation. Some possible situations that call for open-ended questions are a first date, a job interview, an essay-response test, or intimate conversation with someone.
Close-ended questions are best used when you want a short, direct answer to a very specific question. They are less personal in nature and are best used when the person asking wants a quick answer.
Are the following questions open- or close-ended questions?
- Will you attend the dance tonight?
- How will you evade the storm?
- Did you bring the camera?
- Why can’t I join you?
- Would you like a new dress?
See answers below.
Summary: What Are Open-Ended, Close-Ended Questions?
Define open-ended question: an open-ended question is a question that does not expect a specific, narrow answer.
Define closed-ended question: a close-ended question is a question that expects a specific answer and does not give leeway outside of that answer.
- Open-ended questions are broad and do not expect a specific answer.
- Close-ended questions are limiting and expect a specific answer.