It’s approaching final exam season, so let’s talk essay exam tips. In life, many people say “less is more.” But not when you’re answering essay questions.
Let’s take a look inside the grading process. On a multiple choice or short answer test, you start with 100% and lose points with each question that you miss. You might even say that instead of grading, the professor is “downgrading” your exam. On an essay test, on the other hand, you’re starting at zero, and you can only earn points by putting ink on paper. Every piece of relevant information that you provide adds to the value of your answer and ultimately your grade.
With essay questions the rule is clearly “more is more,” so your number one goal must be to provide as much information as possible in an organized fashion. You’ll want to download as much information from your brain as you can, but you also want to present a coherent answer that the professor can understand the first time through. Make a quick mental outline, or use the margins to plot your strategy. Then open the floodgates and let your content pout onto that page.
Make a special effort to use all relevant (or even remotely relevant) vocabulary and lists in your response. Even if your answer is not absolutely eloquent, using the right terminology is a huge step in the right direction. Put yourself in the grader’s shoes for a minute. The grader, whether it is the professor or a teaching assistant, will look at dozens or even hundreds of essays. He or she will eventually start skimming answers looking for the key points. When you use the lists and vocabulary presented in class, the grader will be able to spot them easily and add points to your score.
Remember, you’re starting at zero. So write ‘til you’re right.