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How to ask effective questions when you’re not confident

At the Education and Training Academy, we encourage all our students to use all learning resources available to gain the maximum benefit from our training courses. Asking meaningful questions is a big part of that. So here, you will learn all about how to ask effective questions, even when you’re not feeling 100% confident.

Why? Why? Why?

Do you remember asking that very question, over and over, when you were younger?

As children curiosity was fundamental to our learning. In fact, the same can be said for any relevant question.

At some point during childhood though, something changed. Did the excitement of asking your teacher certain questions, or your parents, or friends, suddenly disappear?

Was it fear of asking the wrong question? Feeling like a fool in front of your classmates?

As we continue to learn and develop, from children to adults and into our senior years, knowing how to ask effective questions is a skill we need just about every day.

But what if that fear we developed as children has followed us through life?

Stepping into any new learning environment is a daunting prospect. Whether you are part of an online learning study group, attending live classroom lectures, or are studying under your own steam, the concept of asking questions, might be something you choose to avoid where possible.

Remember though that for every question you have, there’s at least one other student wanting to ask the same. So, why not give it a go?

Being prepared is the first big step in overcoming how to ask effective questions when you’re not confident.  


Write your question down

“Questioning is the art of learning.”  

The most effective questioning comes from being clear on what you want to know, and how you are going to ask the question.  

Of course, how you prepare to ask your question may differ depending on the situation you are in at the time. But whether you are learning in your own time, in a live classroom environment, or even in a one-to-one tutorial, you could still write your question down first to ensure you have it clear in your mind.  

  • Framing the question in your mind, and then writing your thoughts down, will help you feel more prepared, and confident, to go ahead and ask. You might find it is answered in the next online module, or the next section of the lecture. But it will still benefit you to be prepared.
  • Think about what you want your question to achieve? Is it simply to gain the answer to this specific point? Or could you prepare a follow-up question, leading to more information being offered within the response?
  • Considering your question first also gives you the chance to plan how you are going to ask it. For instance, a closed question will generally give you a straightforward answer – yes, no, or a limited response.
  • By asking the question slightly differently, you pave the way for a more in-depth and detailed answer. Use Who? What? Why? When? Where? How? Or other phrases such as “Describe to me” or “Could you tell me...” to encourage a more expansive or reasoned response.

Avoid interrupting

We know you could be taking a huge leap of faith in raising your hand or grabbing our attention to ask a question. And you might be anxious to hear the reply.

But try never to interrupt, as it can be seen as being rude. Even if you think your answer is not going to be forthcoming from the way the conversation is going, or you disagree with the answer you’ve been given.  

Interrupting is likely to steer the person answering your question away from their train of thought, waste what could be limited time, and will not be considered favourable – by the person responding, or those around you.

If you want to be a great student, who is willing to listen and learn, allow your tutor to finish their response.

In a similar vein, try to get comfortable with silence.

An old friend of mine would just sit and stare when I asked him a question. Despite how uncomfortable it made me feel, and it took a long time to get used to, I eventually learned to sit in silence whilst he processed the question. And then allowed him to answer in his own time.  

Possibly one of the most awkward sensations at first but asking your question and giving the responder space and time to think before answering, is a great way to build your confidence, and show respect, when you’re learning how to ask effective questions.

Never assume

Do you know the old phrase ‘to assume makes an ass of u and me?’

Well, if you’re giving your all in every other aspect of your studying, and taking on board all you can, then making assumptions can be a very dangerous habit to get into!

You’ll kick yourself if that one question you didn’t get the correct answer for turned out to be the difference between a pass and a fail in an exam or coursework.

Or you lost the one percent mark that could have given you the highest category pass.

Or avoiding asking the question, because of your assumption, meant you missed a crucial deadline!

As experienced tutors and assessors, we’ve seen all of the above and more, as a result of students making assumptions.

So, if you think you have a question, prepare it, and don’t be afraid to ask it. You can bet your bottom dollar it will help someone else too.

At the end of the day, what’s the point in learning how to ask effective questions 75% of the time, if you’re going to throw it all away by making assumptions the rest of the time?

Practice asking more questions to increase your confidence

I know, you could put this in the ‘chicken or egg’ basket. But as with so many other things in life, the more you practice, the better you get. I won’t say practice makes perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist.

However, it’s true that learning how to ask effective questions will increase your confidence.

So, start by following our first few tips, and then just go ahead, ask away!

Any professional and reputable tutor will encourage questioning in their class, as we do here in the Education and Training Academy. And you should never feel the way you did when you were younger if you were mocked or punished for asking the “wrong” question.

So, what do you have to lose?

Preparation and practice will bring confidence. Before you know it, you could be showing your peers how to ask effective questions!

Check your body language

The final tip we have if you want to gain the best from your learning environment and learn how to ask effective questions when you’re not confident, is to work on your body language.

We all know how much body language tells us about ourselves and how others perceive us in life. The same applies to you as a student – virtual or face to face.

If you allow yourself to sit hidden away in the corner, at the back of the classroom, and never take advantage of communicating with tutors and other students, you’ll miss out on so much of what the learning experience has to offer.  

You might deliberately want to stay quiet and not draw attention to yourself.

We understand that.

Classrooms and lecture theatres can be overwhelming for some of you. But your tutor will immediately see the student who slouches, or keeps their head down meekly trying to avoid eye contact, and never asks or answers questions.

So, if you truly want to build your confidence as a student, and bring out the best in others too, practice developing a confident stance. Sit up straight. Aim for eye contact, which additionally helps to build trust.  The more attention you pay to others and yourself, the more you will enjoy student life. And of course, this will develop outside the classroom too.

Learn how to ask effective questions, and much more, with the Education and Training Academy


At the Education and Training Academy, we cater to students of all ages, personalities, and backgrounds.

One thing that runs right through every course we deliver, though, is that we encourage every student to fully commit, so you will each gain the maximum benefit.

Feeling confident enough to ask questions as you progress through your course is a primary aspect of learning. So we hope you have found this article on how to ask effective questions useful. You will also hopefully see now that we are open to taking your questions, so please contact one of us here at the Education and Training Academy if you have any queries at all.

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matthew reynolds
Mathew Reynolds | Managing Director and Teacher
Welcome to the ETA. It is my goal to help you get your qualifications in the easiest and quickest way. Unlike other training providers, I am putting my name and reputation on the line, I am not hiding behind logos, this is me, this is my company and I am accountable for you to reach your goals.
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