Art of Asking Good Questions

FullRecall databases are driven by questions. Questions don't have to be questions grammatically, but they always try to bring up an information from memory.

Good questions minimize time spend on reviews, build up interest; along with answers, they form long-lasting memory traces, and make learning with FullRecall enjoyable.

This is not a black or white: no question is entirely good or bad. You may find that a deviation from these rules (in case of your specific database, or personal habits, or specific items) is desirable; but for most people, most of the time, the tips covered here should point in a good direction.

Examples

A poor item:

q{?} acts both by killing bacteria and by inhibiting their growth. It does not kill organisms in the resting stage but only those growing and reproducing.
aPenicillin

Improved:

qWhat kills bacteria and inhibits their growth (i.e., it does not kill organisms in the resting stage but only those growing and reproducing)?
aPenicillin

Changes: The cloze string ("{?}") should not be used at the beginning of question; in fact, ideally, it should not be used at all, except for quickly making provisional items that will be rewritten later, or items that are so easy to remember that it doesn't pay to spend time making them better.


qAbsolute zero is approximately {?}°C (-459.69 °F), or zero degree on the Kelvin scale (0 K).
a-273.16

Improved:

qWhat is the temperature, on Celsius scale, of the absolute zero? (This is -459.69 °F and 0 K).
a-273.16 °C

Changes: Question now explicitly asks for the information to recollect. Answer has the Celsius sign.

Rationale: If possible, it's better when question explicitly asks for the information to recollect. Celsius sign in answer doesn't make answer much longer, yet helps associate (esp. in visual memory) that the number is on the Celsius scale.


q1 horsepower = ... kW
a3/4 kW

Improved:

q1 horsepower = ... W
a1hp = 750W

Rationale: the improved answer helps to associate in visual memory that 1hp = 750W.


qCEO stands for ...
aChief Executive Officer

Improved:

qWhat does CEO stand for?
aChief Executive Officer

Changes: Question changed into explicit question.

Rationale: This change doesn't buy much as the original version with three dots wasn't bad, but it's still a bit better when there is an explicit question.


qcommutative
a(mat.) przemienny

Comment: This is an example of bad question (with one exception: if it's in a category named like "Polish→English" and you have turned on "Prepend question with category name" option);
it should be clear what it asks for; and the hint that it pertains to mathematics should be in the question, not in the answer.

Improved:

qWhat does commutative (math.) mean in Polish?
aprzemienny

Or, if you use a consistent shortcut (like "en2pl") to mark items that ask to translate a word from one language to another:

qcommutative (math.) [en2pl]
aprzemienny

... or use a different background color for every category.


qIn social phobia, we are not actually afraid of other people physical presence or being in their thoughts that we dread, nor is it even being the direct focus of their attention. It is how they might {?} if we give them the chance – by being in their presence.
ajudge us

The question here was made using auto-clipboard-grab-mode, or "Make it answer" option under right mouse button menu, without any further refinement that seems to be worth doing here.

Improved:

qWhat is the main thing people with social phobia are afraid of?
aHow other people will judge them.

Comment: We made question shorter and focused on the most important thing. This item is better off with a longer answer, than a single word.


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