The Essay Type Exam Organization and neatness have merit

Before writing:

Set up a time schedule to answer each question and to review/edit all questions

If six questions are to be answered in sixty minutes, allow yourself only seven minutes for each.
If questions are "weighted", prioritise that into your time allocation for each question.
When the time is up for one question, stop writing, leave space, and begin the next question. The incomplete answers can be completed during the review time.
Six incomplete answers will usually receive more credit than three, complete ones.

Read through the questions once and note if you have any choice in answering questions
Pay attention to the directives, or words such as "compare", "contrast", "criticize", etc.

Answers will come to mind immediately for some questions;
Write down their key words, listings, etc, as they are fresh in mind. Otherwise these ideas may be blocked (or be unavailable) when the time comes to write the later questions. This will reduce "clutching" or panic (anxiety, actually fear which disrupts thoughts).

Before attempting to answer a question, put it in your own words

Now compare your version with the original.
Do they mean the same thing? If they don't, you've misread the question. You'll be surprised how often they don't agree.

Make a brief outline for each question

Teachers are influenced by compactness, completeness and clarity of an organized answer.
To begin writing in the hope that the right answer will somehow turn up is time-consuming and usually futile.
To know a little and to present that little well is, by and large, superior to knowing much and presenting it poorly--when judged by the grade received.

Writing & answering:

Begin with a strong first sentence
that states the main idea of your essay.
Continue this first paragraph by presenting key points


Begin each paragraph
with a key point from the introduction

Develop each point
in a complete paragraph

Use transitions,
or enumerate, to connect your points

Hold to your time
allocation and organization

Avoid very definite statements
when possible; a qualified statement connotes a philosophic attitude, the mark of an educated person

Qualify answers when in doubt.
It is better to say "toward the end of the 19th century" than to say "in 1894" when you can't remember, whether it's 1884 or 1894. In many cases, the approximate time is all that is wanted; unfortunately 1894, though approximate, may be incorrect, and will usually be marked accordingly.

Summarize in your last paragraph
Restate your central idea and indicate why it is important.


Complete questions left incomplete,
but allow time to review all questions

Review, edit, correct
mispellings, incomplete words and sentences, miswritten dates and numbers.

Not enough time?

    Outline your answers!



Examine qualities, or characteristics, to discover resemblances. "Compare" is usually stated as "compare with": you are to emphasize similarities, although differences may be mentioned.


Stress dissimilarities, differences, or unlikeness of things, qualities, events, or problems.

Express your judgment or correctness or merit. Discuss the limitations and good points or contributions of the plan or work in question.

Definitions call for concise, clear, authoritative meanings. Details are not required but limitations of the definition should be briefly cited. You must keep in mind the class to which a thing belongs and whatever differentiates the particular object from all others in the class.

In a descriptive answer you should recount, characterize, sketch or relate in narrative form.

For a question which specifies a diagram you should present a drawing, chart, plan, or graphic representation in your answer. Generally the student is also expected to label the diagram and in some cases to add a brief explanation or description.

The term discuss, which appears often in essay questions, directs you to examine, analyze carefully, and present considerations pro and con regarding the problems or items involved. This type of question calls for a complete and entailed answer.

The word enumerate specifies a list or outline form of reply. In such questions you should recount, one by one, in concise form, the points required.

In an evaluation question you are expected to present a careful appraisal of the problem stressing both advantages and limitations. Evaluation implies authoritative and, to a lesser degree, personal appraisal of both contributions and limitations.

In explanatory answers it is imperative that you clarify, elucidate, and interpret the material you present. In such an answer it is best to state the "how or why," reconcile any differences in opinion or experimental results, and, where possible, state causes. The aim is to make plain the conditions which give rise to whatever you are examining.


A question which asks you to illustrate usually required you to explain or clarify your answer to the problem by presenting a figure, picture, diagram, or concrete example.

An interpretation question is similar to one requiring explanation. You are expected to translate, exemplify, solve, or comment upon the subject and usually to give your judgment or reaction to the problem.

When you are instructed to justify your answer you must prove or show grounds for decisions. In such an answer, evidence should be presented in convincing form.

Listing is similar to enumeration. You are expected in such questions to present an itemized series or tabulation. Such answers should always be given in concise form.

An outline answer is organized description. You should give main points and essential supplementary materials, omitting minor details, and present the information in a systematic arrangement or classification.

A question which requires proof is one which demands confirmation or verification. In such discussions you should establish something with certainty by evaluating and citing experimental evidence or by logical reasoning.

In a question which asks you to show the relationship or to relate, your answer should emphasize connections and associations in descriptive form.

A review specifies a critical examination. You should analyze and comment briefly in organized sequence upon the major points of the problem.

State: In questions which direct you to specify, give, state, or present you are called upon to express the high points in brief, clear narrative form. Details and usually illustrations or examples, may be omitted.

When you are asked to summarize or present a summarization, you should give in condensed form the main points or facts. All details, illustrations and elaboration are to be omitted.

When a question asks you to trace a course of events, you are to give a description of progress, historical sequence, or development from the point of origin. Such narratives may call for probing or for deduction.


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