Essay Test Tips-HelpTips and strategies on how to take an essay test.
- Read the directions carefully. Pay close attention to whether you are supposed to answer all the essays or only a specified amount (e.g. "Answer 2 out of the 3 questions).
- Make sure that you understand what the question is asking you. If you're not, ask your instructor.
- Make sure that you write down everything that is asked of you and more. The more details and facts that you write down, the higher your grade is going to be.
- Budget your time, don't spend the entire test time on one essay.
- If the question is asking for facts, don't give your personal opinion on the topic.
- When writing your essay, try to be as neat as possible, neater papers usually receive higher marks.
- Make an outline before writing your essay. This way your essay will be more organized and fluid. If you happen to run out of time, most instructors will give you partial credit for the ideas that you have outlined.
- Don't write long introductions and conclusions, the bulk of your time should be spent on answering the question(s) asked.
- Focus on one main idea per a paragraph.
- If you have time left at the end, proofread your work and correct any errors.
- Budget your time. If you have an hour to write 3 essays, spend no more than 20 minutes on each essay, then if you have time left over at the end go back and finish any incomplete essays.
- If you aren't sure about an exact date or number, use approximations e.g. "Approximately 5000" or "In the late 17th century."
- If you make a mistake, simply draw a line through it, it is much neater and quicker than erasing it.
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Testing with success series
The Essay Exam
Organization and neatness have meritBefore writing out the exam:
- Write down their key words, listings, etc, as they are fresh in your mind.
Otherwise these ideas may be blocked (or be unavailable) when the time comes to write the later questions. This will reduce "clutching" or panic (anxiety, actually fear which disrupts thoughts).
Set up a time schedule
to answer each question and to review/edit all questions
- If six questions are to be answered in sixty minutes,
allow yourself only seven minutes for each
- If questions are "weighted",
prioritize that into your time allocation for each question
- When the time is up for one question, stop writing,
leave space, and begin the next question. The incomplete answers can be completed during the review time
- Six incomplete answers will usually receive more credit than three, complete ones
Read through the questions once and note if you have any choice in answering questions
- Pay attention to how the question is phrased,
or to the "directives", or words such as "compare", "contrast", "criticize", etc. See their definitions in "Essay terms"
- Answers will come to mind immediately for some questions
Before attempting to answer a question, put it in your own words
- Now compare your version with the original.
Do they mean the same thing? If they don't, you've misread the question. You'll be surprised how often they don't agree.
Think before you write:
Make a brief outline for each question
Number the items in the order you will discuss them
- Get right to the point
State your main point in the first sentence
Use your first paragraph to provide an overview of your essay.
Use the rest of your essay to discuss these points in more detail.
Back up your points with specific information, examples, or quotations from your readings and notes
- Teachers are influenced by compactness,
completeness and clarity of an organized answer
- Writing in the hope
that the right answer will somehow turn up is time-consuming and usually futile
- To know a little and to present that little well is,
by and large, superior to knowing much and presenting it poorly--when judged by the grade received.
Writing & answering:
Begin with a strong first sentence
that states the main idea of your essay.
Continue this first paragraph by presenting key points
Develop your argument
- Begin each paragraph
with a key point from the introduction
- Develop each point
in a complete paragraph
- Use transitions,
or enumerate, to connect your points
- Hold to your time
allocation and organization
- Avoid very definite statements
when possible; a qualified statement connotes a philosophic attitude, the mark of an educated person
- Qualify answers when in doubt.
It is better to say "toward the end of the 19th century" than to say "in 1894" when you can't remember, whether it's 1884 or 1894. In many cases, the approximate time is all that is wanted; unfortunately 1894, though approximate, may be incorrect, and will usually be marked accordingly.
Summarize in your last paragraph
Restate your central idea and indicate why it is important.
Complete questions left incomplete,
but allow time to review all questions
Review, edit, correct
misspellings, incomplete words and sentences, miswritten dates and numbers.
Not enough time?