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Essay-Type Tests

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 his test.

Ask Yourself:
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, list).
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 on content.

06.  Develop a strong thesis statement - the key to success in writing all essays.

Important Notes:
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.)