How to Tackle Essay Questions
The best way to prepare for essay tests is to practice writing essays!
# Anticipate questions: Make outlines of possible essay topics using your course materials so you know you’ve got a good grasp of what might be on the test. Then recreate your outlines from memory (unless it’s an open-notes test).
# Practice writing at least one full essay; be mindful of the time you spend practicing and think about how much time you will have during the exam. It is also important to think about how you are organizing the information you are including in your essay — for example, if you are asked to compare and contrast two theories as they relate to an issue, you might want to define each of them, describe the issue, and then compare and contrast them.
# If your exam is closed book, memorize key events, facts, and names that you will need to support your argument. If it is open-notes, then make sure you develop good outlines.
When you are taking essay tests:
# Manage your time well. As with all exams, if there are multiple essay questions, be sure to look at them all at the beginning (taking note of the points each is worth), and prioritize the order you answer the questions.
# Read the directions carefully. Ask yourself honestly: are you answering the actual question on the test, or the question you want to be on the test? (tip: instructors know when you aren’t really answering the exact question, so make sure you are addressing the actual question and don’t just write random information that is unrelated to the question.)
# Before you write the essay, decide on your argument and quickly list your supporting evidence (it is ok to do a brain dump of all the important information that you want to include so that you have it handy when you begin writing).
# Make a quick outline of what you are going to write to organize your thoughts and arguments.
# Write and, make your point right away– you don’t want to get to the end of a timed essay test with your amazing argument still unmade!
# If you have time, go back and quickly proof-read your essay for errors.