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The disadvantages of closed-ended questions

Updated April 17, 2017

Whether conducting a survey, interview or test, you will find that there are times when closed-ended questions work, and a time when they don't. By providing closed-ended questions, or questions that have predetermined responses, you do not allow respondents to answer as honestly or as openly as they may wish to do.

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Closed-ended questions can result in suggesting responses that the person being questioned may not normally come up with on his own. The questions don't give the person the opportunity to think of his own response; they simply put forward possible responses from which to choose (most often yes or no responses). If the answer that the person wishes to use is not an option, it can be frustrating and lead to poor or inaccurate results.


With closed-ended questions, particularly in a written exam format, there is room for misinterpretation of the question. Because responses typically must be marked either "yes" or "no," it leaves too much possibility for getting the answer completely wrong. With open-ended questions, if the question is misinterpreted, the respondent may still be able to receive partial marks based on his reasoning and support for his answer.


Closed-ended questions do not allow room for further discussion or interpretation of the question. For example, in a face-to-face interview, if you are trying to get the interviewee to answer with as much depth as possible, closed-ended questions do not allow for this. Open-ended questions allow for the interviewee to delve into other areas of the question and provide a more complete response. Open-ended questions also open the interviewer up to the possibility of more questions.

Lack of Knowledge

With closed-ended questions, respondents that have no previous knowledge on the subject are still able to respond. For surveys, this can result in false information and the entire survey may be ruined as a result. In an interview setting for a news article, for example, the result could be someone who isn't necessarily an expert giving an accurate account of events.

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About the Author

Lindsey Salloway started writing professionally in 2005. She has worked for various publications including the "Calgary Sun," "Calgary Journal" and "Penticton Western News." She also completed major journalism projects for various organizations such as the Foothills Country Hospice. Salloway holds a Bachelor of Communications in journalism from Mount Royal University.

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