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How to Ask Open-ended Questions (Guide + 80 Examples)

How to Ask Open-ended Questions (Guide + 80 Examples)

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Ellie Tran 16 Aug 2022 8 min read

Are you here to read about open-ended questions?

Ah, silly me, that’s an absolute YES, right?

Well, I should’ve asked an open-ended question like ‘What do you expect to see in this article?’ so we could poke into this topic and know your needs a bit more clearly, instead of going down the rabbit hole with that yes-no question (that’s a closed-ended thingy by the way). 

Here we’ve got a full guide with heaps of examples that help you start asking better open-ended questions and open up fascinating conversations. Check them out below!

What are Open-ended Questions?

Open-ended questions are the kinds of questions that:

💬 Can’t be answered with yes/no or by choosing from the provided options, which also means that respondents need to think of the answers themselves without any prompts.

💬 Usually start with 5W1H, for example:

  • What do you think are the biggest challenges to this method?
  • Where did you hear about this event?
  • Why did you choose to become a writer?
  • When was the last time you used your initiative to solve a problem?
  • Who will benefit the most from this?
  • How can you contribute to the company?

💬 Can be answered in long-form and are often quite detailed.

Closed-ended questions vs open-ended questions

The opposite of open-ended questions is the closed-ended questions, which can only be answered by choosing from specific options. These can be in multiple-choice format, yes or no, true or false or even as a series of ratings on a scale.

It can be pretty hard to think of an open-ended question compared to a closed-ended one, but you can cut corners with this small trick 😉

Try writing a closed-ended question first and then changing it to an open-ended one, like this 👇

Closed-ended questions Open-ended questions
Will we have lava cake for dessert tonight? What will we have for dessert tonight?
Are you buying some fruits from the supermarket today? What are you going to buy from the supermarket today?
Are you going to visit Marina Bay? Where are you going to visit when coming to Singapore?
Do you like listening to music? What do you like to do?
Do you like working there? Tell me about your experience there.

Why Use Open-ended Questions?

  • More space for creativity – With an open-ended question, people are encouraged to answer more freely, tell their opinions or say anything on their minds. This is fantastic for creative environments when you want ideas to be flowing.
  • Better understanding of the respondents – Open-ended questions let your respondents express their thoughts or feelings towards a topic, which a closed-ended question can never do. You can get a much better understanding of your audience this way.
  • More suitable for complicated situations – When you want to receive detailed feedback in situations that require it, it’s best to use this type of question as people tend to expand their responses.
  • Great for follow-up questions – Don’t let the conversation stop in the middle of nowhere; dig deeper into it and explore other avenues with an open-ended question.

How to Ask Open-ended Questions (Dos and Don’ts)

DO:

✅ Begin with the 5W1H, ‘tell me about… or ‘describe for me…. These are great to use when asking an open-ended question to spark conversation.

✅ Think of a yes-no question (because it’s way easier), then turn it into an open-ended question. Check out these examples!

Use open-ended questions as follow-ups to pry out more information. For example, after asking ‘are you a fan of Taylor Swift?’ (closed-ended question), you can try ‘why/why not?’ or ‘how has he/she motivated you?’ (only if the answer is yes 😅).

Plan when to ask open-ended questions, usually when you want to start a conversation or dive into a topic. If you don’t have much time and only want some basic, statistical information, using closed-ended questions is more than enough.

Be more specific when asking questions if you want to receive brief and direct answers. When people can answer freely, sometimes they might say too much and go off-topic.

Tell people why you are asking open-ended questions in some situations. Many people shy away from sharing, but they’ll probably let their guard down and be more willing to answer if they know why you’re asking.

DON’T:

Ask something too personal. For example, questions like ‘tell me about a time when you were heartbroken/depressed but still managed to finish your work’ are a big NO!

Ask vague or ambiguous questions. Although open-ended questions are not as specific as closed-ended types, you should avoid everything similar to ‘describe your life plan’. It’s a real challenge to answer frankly and you’re less likely to gain helpful information.

Ask leading questions. For example, ‘how wonderful it is to stay at our resort?’. This kind of assumption leaves no room for other opinions, but the whole point of an open-ended question is that our respondents are open when answering, right?

Double up your questions. You should only mention one topic in 1 question, don’t try to cover everything. Questions like  ‘how would you feel if we improved our features and simplified the designs?’ can over-burden respondents and make it hard for them to answer clearly.

80 Open-ended Questions Examples

1. Open-ended quiz questions

A bunch of open-ended questions is one type of quiz you might want to try. Check out some examples from the AhaSlides quiz library below!

Open-ended quiz question on AhaSlides
Juice up a quiz on AhaSlides with an open-ended question.
  • What is the capital of Australia?
  • Which is the 5th planet in our solar system?
  • What’s the smallest country in the world?
  • Which is the best-selling boy band of all time?
  • Where was World Cup 2018 held?
  • What are the 3 capital cities of South Africa?
  • What’s the highest mountain in Europe?
  • What was Pixar’s first feature-length film?
  • What’s the name of the Harry Potter spell that makes things levitate?
  • How many white squares are there on a chessboard?

2. Open-ended questions for kids

Asking open-ended questions is a great way to help children get their creative juices flowing, develop their language and be more expressive in their opinions. 

Here are some simple structures you can use in a chat with little ones:

  • What are you doing?
  • How did you do that?
  • How can you do this another way?
  • What happened during your day at school?
  • What did you do this morning?
  • What do you want to do this weekend?
  • Who sat next to you today?
  • What’s your favourite… and why?
  • What are the differences between…?
  • What will happen if…?
  • Tell me about…?
  • Tell me why…?

3. Open-ended questions for students

Give students a little more freedom to speak up and share their opinions in class. This way, you can expect unexpected ideas from their creative minds, promote their thinking and encourage more class discussion and debate.

13 Amazing Online Debate Games for Students and All Ages (+30 Topics)
  • What are your solutions to this?
  • How can our school be more eco-friendly?
  • How does global warming affect the Earth?
  • Why is it important to know about this event?
  • What are the possible results/consequences of…?
  • What do you think about…?
  • How do you feel about…?
  • Why do you think…?
  • What might happen if…?
  • How did you do this?

4. Open-ended questions for interviews

Get your candidates to share more about their knowledge, skills or personality traits with these questions. This way, you can understand them better and find the missing piece of your company.

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would your boss/co-worker describe you?
  • What are your motivations?
  • Describe your ideal work environment.
  • How do you do research/deal with conflict or stressful situations?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What are you proud of?
  • What do you know about our company/the industry/your position?
  • Tell me a time when you encountered a problem and how you handled it.
  • Why are you interested in this position/field?

5. Open-ended questions for team meetings

Some relevant open-ended questions can frame the conversation, help you kick-start your team meetings, and get every member to speak up and be heard.

  • What problem do you want to solve in today’s meeting?
  • What’s the thing you want to accomplish after this meeting?
  • What can the team do to keep you engaged/motivated?
  • What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt from the team/last month/quarter/year?
  • What are the personal projects you’re working on lately?
  • What is the best compliment you’ve received from your team?
  • What made you happy/sad/content at work last week?
  • What do you want to try next month/quarter?
  • What is your/our biggest challenge?
  • How can we improve the ways we work together?
  • What are the biggest blockers that you/we have?

6. Icebreaker open-ended questions

Icebreakers aren’t necessarily games (though we know a lot of those!) They can simply be questions that break down barriers and help everyone get to know each other better.

  • What’s an exciting thing you’ve learned?
  • Which superpower do you want to have and why?
  • Which question would you ask to know more about a person in this room?
  • What’s a new thing you’ve learned about yourself?
  • What’s a piece of advice you want to give your 15-year-old self?
  • What do you want to bring with you to a deserted island?
  • What is your favourite snack?
  • What are your strange food combinations?
  • If you could, which movie character would you want to be?
  • What’s your wildest dream?

Break the ice with ready-made slides


Check the AhaSlides template library to use our wonderful templates and save your time.

7. Open-ended questions in research

Here are 10 typical questions for in-depth interviews to gain more insights into your interviewees’ perspectives when conducting a research project.

  • What aspects of this problem are you most concerned about?
  • If you have a chance, what would you like to change?
  • What would you like not to change?
  • How do you think this problem could affect the adolescent population?
  • What are the possible solutions, according to you?
  • What are the 3 biggest problems?
  • What are the 3 key repercussions?
  • How do you think we could improve our new features?
  • How would you describe your experience using AhaSlides?
  • Why did you choose to use product A instead of other products?

8. Open-ended questions for conversation

You can engage in some small talk (with no awkward silence) with some simple open-ended questions. Not only are they good conversation starters but they’re also brilliant for you to forge connections with other people.

  • What was the best part of your trip?
  • What are your plans for the holiday?
  • Why did you decide to go to that island?
  • Who are your favourite authors?
  • Tell me more about your experience.
  • What are your pet peeves?
  • What do you like/dislike about…?
  • How did you get that position in your company?
  • What are your thoughts about this new trend?
  • What are the most amazing things about being a student at your school?

3 Tools to Ask Interactive Open-ended Questions

Gather live responses from thousands of people with the help of some online tools. They are best for meetings, webinars, lessons or hangouts when you want to give the whole crew a chance to get involved.

1. AhaSlides

AhaSlides is an interactive platform to raise engagement with your audience.

Its ‘Open Ended’ and ‘Type Answer’ slides alongside ‘Word Cloud’ are best for making open-ended questions and collecting real-time answers, either anonymously or not.

Using AhaSlides word cloud to ask open-ended questions
Word cloud is a great tool to ask open-ended questions and gauge your audience’s expectations.

Your crowd just needs to join with their phone to start creating deep and meaningful conversations together.

2. Poll Everywhere

Poll Everywhere is an audience engagement tool with interactive polling, word cloud, text wall and so on.

It integrates with many video meeting and presentation apps, which is more convenient and saves time switching between different platforms. Your questions and answers can be displayed live on the website, mobile app, Keynote, or PowerPoint.

Using text wall to ask open-ended questions on Poll Everywhere
Text wall on Poll Everywhere (source: Poll Everywhere).

3. Nearpod

Nearpod is an educational platform for teachers to make interactive lessons, gamify learning experiences and host in-class activities.

Its open-ended question feature allows students to answer with written or audio responses instead of text answers only.

An open-ended question slide on Nearpod.
Teacher’s board in an open-ended slide on Nearpod.

In a Nutshell…

We’ve laid out quite a detailed how-to and examples on open-ended questions. Hope this article has offered you everything you need and helped you feel more comfortable with asking this kind of question.

Check out the best online quiz makers & true or false quiz, or to our related articles below!

Use this reference code when you checkout: AHAXMAS21