A Short Guide For Essay Exams
01. Relax! Remember, you are an organized,
well-oiled mental machine. You are the master of the exam. It
has no power over you.
02. Read the entire exam before writing anything. Don't be influenced
by the fool sitting next to you who begins writing as soon as he receives
A. What are the time limits?
B. What are the point values for each question?
C. What material does the exam cover?
D. What are the exact directions?
03. Devise a plan of attack, allotting blocks
of time for each section based on its point value. Be flexible enough,
however, to alter your plan as you progress.
04. Reread the question you choose to begin with (no one says you
have to start at the beginning), and underline the key words.
A. First, underline the verb. (e.g. define, criticize, discuss,
B. Second, underline the direct object. (the thing that needs
to be defined, criticized, discussed or listed).
C. Recognize other key words. Exactly what do the key words
mean? If you're uncertain, ASK the instructor.
05. Plan the structure of your answer.
A. Write notes in the margin of the test.
B. Write a mini-outline, organizing the order in which you plan
to answer the component parts of the question. Remember, good
organization may get you through an exam, even though you may be weak
06. Develop a strong thesis statement - the key
to success in writing all essays.
A. If possible, restate the important key words from the question.
B. Make a concise statement from which the rest of your answer can
be developed. (You may spend as much time writing the thesis statement
as you will writing the body of the essay.)