4 Tutorials that teach Open vs. Closed Question
Take your pick:
Open vs. Closed Question

Open vs. Closed Question

Author: Sophia Tutorial

This lesson will explain the use of open and close ended questions.

See More

Try Our College Algebra Course. For FREE.

Sophia’s self-paced online courses are a great way to save time and money as you earn credits eligible for transfer to over 2,000 colleges and universities.*

Begin Free Trial
No credit card required

28 Sophia partners guarantee credit transfer.

253 Institutions have accepted or given pre-approval for credit transfer.

* The American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE Credit®) has evaluated and recommended college credit for 22 of Sophia’s online courses. More than 2,000 colleges and universities consider ACE CREDIT recommendations in determining the applicability to their course and degree programs.


What's Covered

This tutorial will discuss the difference between open-ended and closed questions, by defining and explaining:

  1. Closed Questions
  2. Open-ended Questions


Many surveys have a combo platter of open and closed questions. Closed questions have short, definite, usually multiple choice type answers.

And you'll notice there are multiple choice-- poor, fair, satisfactory, good and excellent, and those are your only choices.


When there are only certain answers to select, such as yes/no or multiple choice, that is the signal that you are dealing with a closed question.

Term to Know

    • Closed Question
    • A question type with only so many different answer choices.


Open questions, also called open-ended questions, are subjective. These are areas where someone can click into the field and start to type their comments and/or opinions. These comments are open to the interpretation of the person being surveyed.

The comments are also open to the interpretation of the person conducting the survey when they do the analysis.

Usually they need to be analyzed by a person in order to really get the full effect from it. Oftentimes, in the desire for simplicity, someone will give a question in closed form that really should be an open-ended question.

Think About It

Suppose you are in a court of law and the lawyer asks,

“Were you at the crime scene?”

“Yes, but I didn’t see anything other than people running and police arriving. It was chaos.”

“Just yes or no, please.”

The lawyer asked a closed question and wants only a yes/no answer. By attempting to explain your circumstance, you were trying to answer it in an open-ended question type. The lawyer reverts back to the closed question again by asking you to select either “yes” or “no.”

Term to Know

    • Open Question
    • A question type with no answer choices; the respondent can choose what he or she wants to say to answer the question.


Open questions allow for more explanation and they're sometimes difficult to interpret because they're not very cut and dried like closed questions. Closed questions are easier to interpret, but they're not always appropriate for the situation. Sometime pen-ended questions are called "essay" questions.  Closed questions are sometimes called multiple choice type questions.

Good luck!

Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author jonathan Osters.