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Answering the Essay Questions

Now that you have looked over the test, read all the questions, know how many you are required to answer, and know which ones you are best prepared to answer, you can get to work on the test.

Start with the question you are best prepared to answer. Remember to observe closely the action words of the question which tell you what form your answer should take. Pause a minute to organize your thoughts and perhaps scribble a brief outline or mind map on a blank piece of paper to help you get things in proper order. Write a brief introductory sentence or two stating the main topic and what you will prove or the direction you are headed. Then lay out your answer in direct and concise fashion and thought. No need to attempt to be flowery with your descriptions and the like; just get the main thoughts and ideas communicated in a concise manner. If you know this material with some depth and can give examples, especially examples from readings or lectures, doing it will underscore your knowledge and understanding of the material. Don't strive for perfection and waste time. Get it answered as best you can, leave some space in case you want to come back and add something to it later and then go on to the next question you have selected to answer.

Remember as you answer the balance of the questions that your goal on an essay test is usually not to define terms. Your goal is to show that you have understanding of the subject matter and the ideas and relationships contained therein. The exam is generally constructed to allow a capable student to reflect on the question and the material it relates to and offer thoughtful comparisons, evaluations and conclusions using terms and examples cited previously throughout the course to substantiate his/her position. Think about how the terms used in the question fit in the subject matter of the course as a whole and what they influence and affect. This will help expand your thought process beyond simple definition of the terms.


Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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