HOW TO EXCEL ON ESSAY EXAMS San José State University Writing Center Dr. Jim Lobdell
PREPARATION ANTICIPATE • Study Guides If your instructor has given youstudy guidesor other materials to help you prepare for the exam,use them. • Your Notes Go over lecture notes, class discussion notes, and reading notes to review big ideas and major concepts.
PREPARATION ANTICIPATE • Textbook(s) Reviewchapter summariesandsection headingsin your textbook(s) as well as in other course materials. • Handouts Go overall materials your instructor has distributed to students throughout the course.
PREPARATION CONDENSE • Using all the material you’ve gathered and gone over so far, write summaries of these materials, incorporating the major points and significant details. • Based on your summaries, create an outline or a concept map, showing how these materials are related to each other.
CONDENSE LEARNING THEORIES I. Behaviorism A. B. II Constructivism A. B. III. Social Cognition A. B.
PREPARATION PRACTICE • Sample Questions On the basis of study guides, previous tests, and your knowledge of what the instructor has emphasized most, create possible essay questions andoutline possible answers.
PREPARATION PRACTICE • Collaborate with a partner or form a study groupto create and discuss sample questions as well as possibleanswers.
TAKING THE EXAM BEFORE YOU BEGIN • Readallthe directionscarefully. • How many questions are you required to answer? • Quickly skim through all the questions. • Which ones are you best prepared to answer successfully? • Which questions are worth the most credit?
TAKING THE EXAM PLAN YOUR STRATEGY • Allow most of your time for questions which are worth the most credit. • Begin with the easiest questions first. • Quickly (no more than 5 minutes) highlight underline make notes about each question you have selected.
TAKING THE EXAM • Reread the directions for the easiest question and note key instruction words: identify, define, compare, contrast, discuss, argue, etc. • Check the time when you begin and decide when you must finish this question. • Remind yourself that all good essays have three parts: Introduction Body Conclusion
TAKING THE EXAM DO NOTbegin to write your introductionBUT leave space for it. OR Begin to write your introduction by paraphrasing the question.
TAKING THE EXAM SOME COMMON QUESTION TYPES • Identify • Explain • Compare • Argue • Assess
TAKING THE EXAM IDENTIFY This group is made up of questions which ask for short, direct answers and usually do not require fully developed essays. • LIST - Write an itemized series of concise statements. • ENUMERATE - Write in a list or outline form, making points concisely one by one. • DESCRIBE - Recount, characterize, sketch, relate in a sequence or story form. • DEFINE-Give clear, concise, authoritative meanings. • STATE - Present main points in brief, clear sequence, usually omitting minor details and examples. • SUMMARIZE - Give the main points or facts in condensed form, like the summary of a chapter in a text, omitting details and illustrations. • DIAGRAM - Give a graphic answer, a drawing, a chart, a plan, a schematic representation.
TAKING THE EXAM EXPLAIN This group requires essays which are fully thought out and developed in as much detail as you have time for. • DISCUSS - Consider various points of view, analyze carefully, and give reasons pro and con. • ANALYZE -Summarize fully with detail in accordance with a selected focus, consider component parts of ideas and their interrelationships. • EXPLAIN - Clarify, interpret, give reasons for differences of opinion or of results, analyze causes. • ILLUSTRATE - Use a word picture, diagram, or concrete example to clarify a point. • OUTLINE - Organize a description based on main points and subordinate points, stressing the arrangement and classification of the subject matter. • TRACE - In narrative form, describe the evolution, development, or progress of the subject.
TAKING THE EXAM COMPARE This group requires an analysis in essay form which emphasizes similarities, differences, and connections between these ideas or concepts to demonstrate your understanding of the ideas. • COMPARE- Look for qualities or characteristics that resemble each other. Emphasize similarities, but also note differences. • CONTRAST - Stress differences, dissimilarities of ideas, concepts, events, problems, etc., but also note similarities. • RELATE - Show how similar and different ideas or concepts are connected to each other. • Related words: DISTINGUISH
TAKING THE EXAM • ARGUE This group requires that you take a position on an issue and defend your argument against reasonable alternatives. • PROVE - Establish the truth of a statement by giving factual evidence and logical reasoning. • JUSTIFY - Show strong reasons for decisions or conclusions; use convincing arguments based on evidence • Related words: AGREE, DISAGREE, DEBATE, DEFEND
TAKING THE EXAM ASSESS This group involves describing acceptable criteria and defending a judgment on the issue, idea, or question involved. Underlying questions here include "to what extent?" and "how well?“ • CRITICIZE - Express your judgment about the merit or truth or usefulness of the views or factors mentioned in the question. • EVALUATE - Appraise, give your viewpoint, cite limitations and advantages, include the opinion of authorities, give evidence to support your position. • INTERPRET - Translate, give examples or comment on a subject, usually including your own viewpoint. • REVIEW - Examine a subject critically, analyzing and commenting on it, or statements made about it. • Related words: INTERPRET, RECOMMEND.
POINTS TO REMEMBER • Begin to repare for the exam well in advance. • When you take the exam, read the instructions carefully, noting how many questions you need to answer in each section. Essay exams often include a choice of questions; don't waste time by doing more than required! • Process the question to ensure you know how to answer it. For example, are you being asked to analyze, compare and contrast, or discuss? Each requires a different approach. • Read all the questions on the exam before you begin writing. Make a brief outline for the questions you plan to answer. • Calculate the amount of time available for each question depending on how many points it's worth. Try and stick to your time plan - it's usually better to write something for each question, even if it's incomplete, rather than nothing at all. If you run out of time to finish a question, jot down the rest of your ideas in an outline or list of points. Your instructor may give partial credit for your ideas. • Leave enough time to reread your paper at the end of the exam when you have some objectivity and distance from your writing.