Item Building

Short Answer Items

  • A Short Answer Item requires the examinee to respond by providing a typed response in a text field.
  • OWL Short Answer items can be auto-rated or assessed by a human rater.
  • Students can respond using a virtual keyboard.


  1. To start building a Short Answer Item, use one of the two methods shown on the Building Your Items Help Page
  2. Short Answer items can be composed of Text or Media prompts.
  3. The acceptable correct answers are entered using the properties editor.

Learn More



Building Items
Help Page

Written Response

Short Answer Properties

Each Item's properties editor is launched by clicking on the control at the specific Item level (3).

Field  Description (default options underlined)
Name My Short Answer
The OWL TMS automatically enters "My Short Answer" for a new item's name. It is recommended that you change this so you can find your content in the OWL List Pages.
  User Defined The Name of the item is used to find your activity in the OWL TMS list pages. You can also change this using the Name Field to the left of the control. (In the above example the name field displays "Replay Essay")
Title Short Answer
The OWL TMS automatically enters "Short Answer".
  User Defined The Title is displayed to your test takers in the upper margin of the testing window. You can use this field to describe the section or give additional directions. Please note the amount of text displayed in the title is limited by each browser. Be sure to preview your test to ensure the title is displayed properly. 

Correct Answers Null Leave this field empty if the answers to the short answer question will be assessed by a human rater.

  User Defined

This field is used when the item will be auto-rated by OWL. Enter all acceptable responses to the question. This should include all permutations of the response.

IMPORTANT: Enter one correct answer per line.
For example, the number two may have he following acceptable answers:

Case Sensitive Rating Yes The examinee must enter the response with the capitalization as it appears in the Correct Answers field in order for the auto-rater to score the item as correct.

  No The auto-rater will accept a test taker's response regardless of capitalization. (e.g. for an item with a correct answer of "one" will be scored as correct if the test taker enters any variation such as: one, One, ONE, oNE, etc.).

Navigation Enabled Yes Allow the Test Taker to use the OWL Tester's navigation controls (arrows). 

If Navigation is restricted then the Test's timers control the examinee's movement through the test. This feature is referred to as Auto Pilot.
Require Answer Yes The examinee cannot move forward until they have entered their response or the item timer runs out.
  No Allow the examinee to move off the item regardless of completion.
Practice Yes Practice items can be assigned points, however those points will not be added into the examinee's overall Test performance.

  No Item is included in the Test's scoring.
Auto Play Media Yes An audio or video recording will automatically start when the examinee lands on the Item in tester.
  No The test taker is required to press the "Play" button on the screen to begin the hearing or viewing the media.
Nav During Auto Play Yes The examinee can use the tester's navigation while the media is playing. If Require Answer is set to use they must first provide an answer before moving on.
The examinee must listen/watch to the entire media prompt before moving on to the next test item. When using this feature, Auto Play Media must be set to "Yes."
Replays Unlimited The test taker can replay the audio prompt as many times as they like, provided limits have not been on the Test.
  Limited = 0 The examinee will not be allowed to replay the Item's Audio prompt.
  Limited = 1

The examinee will be allowed to replay the Item's Audio prompt once.

Replay Penalty 0 The percentage of points deducted from the Test Taker's score each time they replay the audio on the individual item.
  user defined The percentage for the points deduction can be set by the user.

Response Time Unlimited Set the amount of time the test taker has to respond to the item. If set to unlimited, the Test will remain on the item until the examinee clicks on the next item control.
  Timed =
User Defined

The examinee will have this amount of time to enter their response before the tester automatically advanced to the next time  The examinee can press the next control if they have completed their response and wish to move on.

PLEASE NOTE: Setting the Response Time on an item will apply to the particular item only. If you have set the Response Time at the Section or Test level, that setting will override any value that you set here.

Response Prompt Beep Select for an indicator to play after any audio prompts letting the examinee know the response timer has started.  
  None No beep will be heard.
Keywords Nothing Keywords can be used like tags for sorting and grouping your content in the OWL List Pages. They can also be used to engage certain other OWL features that have not yet been incorporated into the user interface.
  User Defined Enter any words that are relevant to your workflow. Keywords can also be used to engage certain other OWL features that have not yet been incorporated into the user interface. (Keywords Help Page)
Category Testing Response to item will be included in the test scoring.
  Survey Response will be recorded, but no points will be assigned.  Responses to items marked as survey can be reported on separately in OWL.
Level None This is the proficiency level of the test item. This information is not visible to the test taker. By setting a Level for your question you can more easily access this item to build sections or tests in the future.
  Select from
Drop Down List
In most cases, this menu is configured by your administrator with the levels that you typically use. Some examples of values that may appear in this field are:
ACTFL Level - Novice Low, Novice Mid, Novice High...
ILR (Interagency Language Roundtable) - 0, 0+, 1, 1+...
COE (Council of Europe) - A1, A2, B1, B2 ...
Your own - If you wish to establish your own scale, ask you administrator to customize this list for your needs

Rubric None Do not attach a rubric if the item will be auto-rated by OWL.

  Select from
Drop Down List
Rubrics you have built in OWL will appear in the drop down list. Attached one to your short answer if you wish it to be used by a human rater when evaluating the short answer response.