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Monday, February 12, 2007

How to Answer Essay Questions?

Preparing for an Essay Exam
  • Get a sense for the type of essay exam the professor generally gives; e.g., short vs. long thought questions.
  • Try to get some idea of the general area that will be covered; i.e., concepts, issues, theories, etc.
  • Carefully review lecture notes to ascertain which broad areas have constituted central discussion topics.
  • Carefully review text(s). Link and/or supplement major areas here with those in your notes.
  • Mentally test yourself: What major concepts and relationships were covered? Now, what details support these?
  • Be able to write a concise outline, covering the material.
  • Remember: Present a sound generalization then prove it with appropriate detail.
  • Be familiar with the terminology used in the course. Be able to understand concepts and use appropriate terms.

Taking the Exam

  • Listen for any oral directions, if any.
  • Read the questions carefully. What are they asking?
  • Be sure you understand the question. What is the controlling idea? What are the key words? Underline them.
  • How is the answer to be given? Is the question asking for fact? Opinion? Explanation? Comparison?
  • If the question seems ambiguous:

    a. Seek clarification from the professor;

    b. if still not clear, state your interpretation of the question before attempting to answer it. Remember, essay questions are aimed at concepts and the emphasis in the course; so you must be able to conceptualize, succinctly respond, and support your generalization with sufficient details.
  • Define any vague terms; for example, some terms may have ambiguous implications if not clearly defined.
  • Think through your answer. Then go back and reread the question to make sure that you are answering what is asked.

Writing the Answers

  • Remember to take time to think, make notes, and prepare a rough outline before you begin to write the essay:

    a. Develop the summary statement.

    b. Support the statement with details.
  • Once you have your summary in outline form, expand upon it and write it in written form, tactfully and clearly.
  • Budget your time so that you are not forced to rush through your final essay because you spend too much time on the earlier one(s).
  • Allow a little time to proofread for grammar, spelling errors, omissions, etc.
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