School Improvement in Maryland

Characteristics of Good Items

Brief Constructed Responses


The BCR is an open-ended question that provides students with the opportunity to generate and weave ideas into a short response. This item type can be used to:

  • assess understanding of factual knowledge
  • assess a student's ability to synthesize ideas into an explanation
  • assess a student's ability to describe a model and identify its advantages and disadvantages
  • assess a student's ability to select evidence to support ideas
  • assess a student's ability to analyze a graph, diagram, etc.

A BCR item is an item which is designed to measure student achievement relative to a single indicator. The student supplies a response in the form of a few sentences, a graphic organizer, or simple drawing/ diagram. It is estimated that it would take an average student 8 minutes to answer the question.

Item Writing Guidelines

The item should

  1. clearly tell students what they are to do and what is expected of them.
  2. clearly tell students where they are to write their response. The amount of space provided on the answer document should be appropriate for the length of the expected response.
  3. use simple but authentic vocabulary and good sentence structure. It should be clear and concise.
  4. identify the information or material that students should use when preparing their response. It should focus their attention on the particular area of knowledge or to the specific aspect of the stimulus material that the students should use.
  5. clearly indicate the scientific skill or process that should be demonstrated in the response (see CLG 1 and higher order thinking skills).
  6. provide proper cueing to direct the student's thinking and identify expectations.

NOTE: The rubric worksheet should be used to outline the sample response before the question is actually crafted. The sample response will be used by the scorer as an indicator of a quality response.