Exam Taking Tips and Techniques



Taking the Multiple Choice Exam

?  Before you begin taking the test, look at the number of questions.  If you have 50 minutes and 50 items, you have about 1 minute for each question.  Some students find it helpful to mark the half way time and the half way question at the top of the exam to help them keep track of the time.

  Complete the items you know for sure first!  You won't miss any easy questions by running out time.  It builds confidence.  And, later questions sometimes help to answer earlier questions.  After completing all of the answers you know for sure, go back and work through the rest of the test.  Be aware of how many questions you have left and how much time you have to do them.

?  Beware of gray terms such as sometimes, frequently, often, many, generally, on the average, or usually.  Beware of absolute terms such as all, none, always, must, never, or best.  Statements containing them may be incorrect because few things in life meet the requirements of all, none, always, never, best.  Read carefully so you don't miss terms like not and except.

  Read ALL choices.  Cross out the letter of obvious incorrect choices.  Select the best one.  If two or more choices are correct, choose the most specific one.  For example, a triangle has three sides is better than a triangle has more than two sides.

  Don't pay attention to how many a's, b's, c's, or d's you've marked.


Taking the True/False Exam

?  Read the directions Do you have to write explanations as to why the statements are true or false?

  Be careful of statements with two clauses.  If the statement contains and, then BOTH clauses have to be true for the statement to be true.  If the statement contains or, then only one clause has to be true for the statement to be true.


Taking the Essay Exam

?  Before an essay exam, you may want to ask your professor: long or short essay questions?  How many essay questions?  Will there be a choice of questions?

  Remember, essay exams are more than spitting back information.  They require application and evaluation of concepts, critical thinking and analysis.  Read the directions carefully and make sure you know what you're being asked to do.  For example, if your professor wants you to evaluate philosophical theory, then you won't get full credit if you just describe the theory.

?  Note the weight of each question.  Are all questions weighted equally?  Budget your time according to the weight of each question.

  Once you fully understand what the question is asking you, create a logical outline, question chart, or key word diagram.  This will give your essay direction.  Your professors are definitely influenced by well organized, clear and compact thought patterns.

  Begin with a simple and clear thesis statement that reflects your understanding of the whole question.  Then, systematically support your thesis and do not stray from your thesis or outline.  Avoid fat, fluff, and filler.  Remember to include some specific details and examples if applicable.  Finish it up with a summary.  The summary is simply a paraphrasing of your introduction.

  Qualify answers when in doubt.  It is better to say, towards the end of the 19th century than to say in 1894 when you can't remember the exact date.

  Review terms commonly found in essay exam questions (e.g., Analyze, Compare/Contrast, Define, Describe, Evaluate, Explain, Identify, Illustrate, Prove, Sumamrize).  Know these words!  An understanding of these terms will enable you to give your professor what s/he is requesting.

  Last, but not least, proof read your essay!


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