Appendix 14: Essay Test Taking Strategies
Although giving timed essay tests is not common practice in our composition classes, students are nonetheless apt to face these kinds of tests in other classes. Students who have visited the Resources for Disabled Students Office know that they can get extra time for these tests, but often students also need ideas for how to approach them, even with the extra time. Here are some ideas to pass on to your students:
Short answer/multiple choice:
Relax through deep breathing
Scan the entire test, searching for the part that appears to be the easiest for you.
Read each question or prompt carefully. Place a check mark beside the ones you think you know and a question mark by the ones you think you do not know. First, complete all items you are certain you know. Practice this procedure on worksheets prior to the test day.
To remember the answers, visualize yourself looking for the answer in the book, or picture yourself hearing the teacher give the answer in class, or close your eyes and mentally write the answer.
Go back to the questions you do not know. Try the methods listed above. If you cannot remember the answer:
-- eliminate the answers you know are wrong
-- deep breathe to relax, and write or circle the answer you feel is correct
-- look for the answer hidden in another question on the test.
Studying for essay tests:
- Spend some time DESCRIBING what you should do to get ready to study for the test.
- OUTLINE the five-day study plan.
- SUMMARIZE the things you should do when taking any test.
- PREDICT the way the questions on the test might be written. You might practice writing the test questions yourself.
Taking the test:
- Read and restate each item in your own words before attempting to answer it. In this way, you check to see if you understand it, and you make sure that you read ALL of the instructions.
- Decide if your answer needs to be long or just a few words. If your answer is going to be long, make a brief outline before writing your answer. This helps you organize your information.
- Answer all parts of the item.
- Write directly to the point of the item. This means that you must answer the question or statement and not write about something else you find interesting or happen to know about.
- Use pictures and diagrams to explain your ideas whenever it may be appropriate.
- Write neatly because teachers will not give you credit for something they cannot read.
- Proofread your answers for clarity, spelling, and grammar.
- When you are running out of time, quickly list the information you know about any remaining items so your teacher will see what you know. This may earn you partial credit.