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PREPARING FOR ESSAY TESTS

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Vo lam son

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PREPARING FOR ESSAY TESTS
Essay examinations can be short answer questions or long general questions. Essay tests do not have an exact answer key. They are usually scored on the logic and completeness of the answer, although there will be certain facts expected in the answer. The number one reason students fail essay tests is because they don't answer the questions completely and specifically, and because their answers are not well-organized, not because they cannot write.

Essay tests require students to remember what they learned. Preparation must be done during the semester, not the night before! Here are some tips you can use during the semester to be ready for any essay test that your instructor announces.

Try some of these suggestions to get a better score on your next essay test:

Carefully figure out the major content areas you need to learn.
Focus on the main source for the test: notes, the reading from the textbook or whatever you think will be asked on the test. It's better to understand a few things, than to try to learn a lot of unorganized material the day before the test.
Make a list of some possible topics for the test. List important subtopics for each.
Quickly read over all the materials you should cover. Mark the topics you need to study more intensively.
Write down all the main topics covered in class and in your reading up until the test date.
Read or reread all the materials you do not understood; use a specific purpose when reading.
Create a "bank" of information for each topic. Ask yourself questions about the materials you study. Use question words like "who," "what," "where," "when," "how," Ask yourself about the key characteristics of the information, what are some causes and effects? Create some examples for each topic to help you cover the most important information.
And lastly, on the day of the test, take some extra pencils in case you break one. If your teacher asks you to write in ink, take a pen with erasable ink.
Taking the Essay Test
Read all the directions and questions first! Take notice of the number of questions, the points for each question, the range of difficulty and the time available. Write any answers that come to your mind immediately. Write down any other key information you don't want to forget.
Analyze the test question and divide it into its main parts and sub-parts. From the parts, you should quickly make an outline of what you will write about.
Read the instructional words included in the question carefully, for example, "Compare and contrast the culture of your country with the culture of a different country." If the directions say to compare and contrast, then your answer must be a comparison essay!
Make an outline as a "map" to answer the essay question. If you don't have time to finish the whole test, this outline may give you some points! More importantly, the outline helps you to stay focused.
Make your answer as specific as possible. If you know the answer, write only what you are asked. Avoid generalities and always try to give specific examples.
Use part of the test question sentence in your test answer at the beginning of the paragraph. This tells the reader that you are answering this part of the essay here. This will earn you points!
Include a topic statement at the beginning and a conclusion paragraph at the end.
Review your answers. Your essay is written in a hurry and with a deadline, but it is scored under much more relaxed conditions. Give yourself enough time at the end of the test to check for spelling mistakes, grammar errors, omitted words, incorrect dates, etc. This is when you will be glad you wrote in pencil or erasable ink!



A MINI-DICTIONARY of ESSAY EXAM WORDS
ANALYZE
When you are asked to analyze, you must separate a thing or idea into its parts to explain their relationship to each other.
COMMENT
When you're asked to comment, you should explore the importance and meaning of something, or write a note of explanation, or write a criticism or example of something written or said. You may also write a remark or make a critical observation or express your opinion.
COMPARE
Here, you must look for similarities. The term compare is usually stated as compare with, and it means that you are to emphasize similarities, although differences may be mentioned.
CONTRAST
Show the differences between two or more topics.
CRITIQUE
Express your opinion with respect to the correctness or merits of the factors under consideration. Give the results of your own analysis and discuss the limitations and good points or contributions of the plan or work in question.
DEFINE
When asked to define something, your definition must contain concise, clear, and authoritative meanings. Details are not required, but boundaries or limitations of the definition should be given. Keep in mind the group/class/category to which a thing belongs and whatever differentiates the particular object from all others in the group/class/category.
DIAGRAM
You must draw a chart, a plan or a graphic representation in your answer. You may be expected to label the diagram or add a brief explanation or description.
DISCUSS
Examine the topic, analyze it carefully and then present detailed considerations pro and con regarding the problems or items involved. This type of essay question is common.
EVALUATE
Present a careful analysis of the problem, and stress both the advantages and limitations. Evaluation means an authoritative and personal appraisal of both contributions and limitations.
EXPLAIN
Clarify and interpret the material you present. State the "how" or "why," explain differences of opinion or experimental results, and state any causes if it's possible. In short, tell how it all happened!
JUSTIFY, PROVE
To justify your answer, provide factual evidence or logical reasons. In this type of answer, the evidence should be presented in a convincing form. Establish your answer with certainty by evaluating and giving evidence or by logical reasoning.
LIST, ENUMERATE
Write an itemized list, series or tabulation. Be concise.
OUTLINE
Give the main points and essential supplementary materials. Leave out the minor details and present the information in a clear systematic arrangement or classification.
SUMMARIZE
Give the main points or facts in condensed form. Brief examples can help make your summary more specific.
TRACE
Give a description of the progress, historical sequence or development from the point of origin. This type of essay may require probing or deductions.
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