Strategies for Essay Tests
BEFORE THE EXAM
Review old exam questions, or write and answer your own questions.
- Write a key word outline for each question, listing details and examples.
- Take timed mock exams if you are anxious.
DURING THE EXAM
A. Read through the exam sheet (5 min.).
- Examine the instructions for each section.
- Choose the best questions to answer and start with the easiest.
B. Budget your time.
- Allocate total time according to points per question.
- Leave 10-15 minutes at the end for checking.
- Note the expected finishing time for each question.
C. Plan your answers.
- Decide what the question is asking (circle key words).
- If necessary, ask the professor for clarification.
- Number parts of the question to avoid omissions.
- Write a key word outline of the points you will make.
- Include the professor's pet theories/concepts.
- Answer the question directly in an opening sentence which lists points you will later discuss.
- Do not write introductory or concluding paragraphs, as they will probably not earn any points.
- Use transitions.
- Write on every other line and/or leave lines between answers so that you can add ideas later.
- Be complete: define terms and explain everything so that the professor doesn't have to read between the lines.
- Write legibly.
- For each point you make, use the following formula:
- State your point.
- Explain how your point answers the question.
- Write details and examples about your point.
E. When time is up:
- Check through all answers, neatly crossing out material to omit and using arrows to add material.
- If unfinished with the test, list remaining points in a skeleton outline.
AFTER THE EXAM
Learn from your exams.
- Compare your answers with A answers (ask another student or the professor).
- Discuss your performance with the professor.
- Remedy any faults revealed in your study techniques.
UIC Academic Center for Excellence: 1200 W. Harrison St., Chicago
(312) 413-0031 http://www.uic.edu/depts/ace