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Suggestions for Taking Essay Tests

By KSU Counseling Services Staff

  1. Read all directions carefully and reread anything which is not clear.
  2. Be sure you know what is meant by directional words such as "name", "define", "compare", or "discuss".
  3. Read the entire examination. This allows you to have more time for any blocked information to appear as well as to write answers which do not overlap.
  4. Decide on optional questions.
  5. Budget your time for each part in proportion to the credit value of the answer. If questions are of unequal value, make a comparable adjustment in time for each question.
  6. Spend five minutes or more jotting down key words or phrases for each question which will serve to stimulate other ideas.
  7. Begin with the easiest question. Ideas about more difficult questions may occur to you as you write.
  8. As ideas about other questions occur to you, immediately jot them down on scratch paper (or the side of the exam) before they slip away.
  9. Before starting to write, jot down a sketch outline. A little time spent on a brief outline pays big dividends for the few seconds spent. A planned answer saves you from a lot of excess wordage which is time consuming but worth nothing.
  10. If you don't know the answer to a question, try to reason it out. If you cannot, do not waste time giving an erroneous or absurd answer. Use good English, write legibly and remember that neat papers tend to be scored higher.
  11. Star or underline ideas appearing late in the material.
  12. If information you've given in answer to one question ties up with that for another, point of the interrelation—it may be worth credit.
  13. Check your paper thoroughly before you turn it in. It is human to err.

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

Suggestions for Taking Essay Tests (pdf)