There are two types of questions which can be asked.  They are Closed Questions and Open Questions.

A closed question does not allow the respondent to provide unique or unexpected answers but to choose from a list of pre-selected options.

Those options would be

  1. a direct and honest response (yes or no)
  2. a lie (yes or no)
  3. out of context (don’t know)
  4. partial answering (maybe)
  5. avoid to answer (no answer given)
  6. stalling (hesitating to answer)
  7. distortion (saying an inappropriate answer which is not required)

The question is:           What is your name?

The student answers ‘Jim’  (That could be his name or a lie)

he might answer (don’t know or ‘tell you later’) which are answers out of context.

He might answer ‘J’ which is only partial answering.

He might hesitate to say his name or simply say nothing.

His final response might be to say something like ‘yes’ which is an inappropriate answer to the question asked.

The ability to ask open ended questions is very important for education, counselling, mediation, sales, investigative work and journalism but not necessarily in surveys, as we shall see later in this lesson.

Answers to closed questions look for a short one-word answer, whereas answers to open questions are longer and require creativity and information.

An open question is also intended to encourage a full meaningful answer using the other person’s own knowledge and/or feelings.

Before we look at some questions for a survey, let us compare the two types of questions in everyday English.

CLOSED                    Who are you?

ANSWER       John or (I’m John) or (My name is John)

OPEN                         Tell me about yourself

ANSWER       My name is John and I am a school student


CLOSED                    Do you go to school on foot?

POSSIBLE ANSWERS         Yes/No/Sometimes/Never

OPEN                         How do you go to school?

ANSWER       I usually go to school by minibus


CLOSED                    Do you smoke?

POSSIBLE ANSWERS         Yes, No/Sometimes/Never

OPEN                         What do you think about smoking?

POSSIBLE ANSWER           I think smoking is unhealthy


CLOSED                    It’s hot today, isn’t it?

POSSIBLE ANSWER           Yes it is/No it’s not

OPEN                         How is the weather today?

POSSIBLE ANSWER           I think the weather is cool

NOTE:  A Question Tag always creates a closed question.


CLOSED                    Do you want to eat fried rice or noodles?

POSSIBLE ANSWERS         Fried rice/Noodles,Both/Neither

OPEN                         What do you want to eat?

POSSIBLE ANSWER           I want to eat a pizza


CLOSED                    What is the colour of your shirt?

POSSIBLE ANSWERS         Red/Blue/Yellow/White/Mixed

OPEN                         Describe the shirt you are wearing

POSSIBLE ANSWER           It has no collar and short sleeves



Now let us take a look at some suitable questions for a survey about an English language course and identify whether they are closed or open questions.

CLOSED                    Do you speak English?

CLOSED                    How many languages do you speak?

CLOSED                    Do you attend an English language school?

CLOSED                    In which age bracket are you?  (eg 8-11, 12-15, 16-19, 20-40)

CLOSED                    What is your name?

CLOSED                    Are you Indonesian?

OPEN                         Tell us about yourself

OPEN                         Describe your first day at school

OPEN                         What do you think about an English language school?

OPEN                         Why do you want to learn English?

OPEN                         How does learning English make you feel

OPEN                         How often do you read a book in English?

CLOSED                    How would you rate the importance of learning English on a scale from                                       zero to five?


Students should practice writing out their own open and closed questions for a survey.

Good topics would be eating out at a restaurant, hobbies, going on holiday and Art Museums.

Enjoy the lesson!




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