Some of us love them, some of us hate them, but essay tests are a part of every student’s life, especially once you get into college.
For those who dread essay tests, we offer the following as a possible way for you to re-think the much-maligned essay test. Essay tests are a way for you and your ideas to shine. An essay test isn’t about polished, perfect writing; that’s the realm of the research or term paper. Essay tests are about clearly expressing your ideas. Unlike multiple choice and true/false questions, essay tests are not rigid right or wrong; they’re flexible, and often offer the opportunity to receive partial credit. For example, an essay question that asks for “three causes of WWII” will net you some credit even if your answer only includes two because you couldn’t think of a third – and sometimes, just the process of writing the essay will bring the rest of the answer to you!
Whether you look forward to or dread essay tests, this strategy for taking essay tests will help you do your best when it comes to test-taking time.
Take the first 5 minutes to read all of the questions. As you do, mark the ones you’re confident of – and if any thoughts or ideas pop into your head when you read the question, jot them down.
This is also the time to decide which questions you’re going to answer if you’re given the option to choose several from a list of provided questions. If you’re lucky to find enough options you’re confident of, that’s great! If not, go ahead and make a firm decision on exactly which questions you’re not as certain about you’re going to answer during the test – you don’t want to start writing a response to one question only to decide to answer another halfway through. That’s just a tremendous waste of time. Make the decision and stick with it.
Manage your time carefully, based on the number of essay questions you have to answer. If you have three questions and one hour, that’s 5 minutes to read the questions, 15 minutes per question, and 10 minutes to give your essays a final read for typos and grammar.
Part of time management is deciding whether or not to do an outline. The best way to decide this is to again look at the number of questions you have to answer and the amount of time you have.In our above example, you could choose to use that 10 minutes creating three outlines instead of using them to proof. Or, if you have an essay test that gives you one hour to answer one question, then you know you have time to do an outline.
Be careful about creating outlines – you may end up without enough time to do the actual writing.If you do decide to outline, keep it simple; essay test responses are simple enough that you don’t need a detailed outline. You know you’re going to have an introduction and conclusion, and then 1-3 paragraphs where you flesh out your ideas.
The same strategy you use when taking multiple-choice tests also applies to essay tests. Remember the questions you marked at the beginning – the ones you were sure about? They are the questions you want to tackle first. You’ll be able to get them done faster, which will leave you more time to handle the questions you’re not as sure about.