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Preparation for Essay Exams

Don't worry.  Here's some tips on how to prepare for test day.

1. Throughout the semester, take good notes in class. Don't try to write down every word your professor says. Instead, concentrate on the information that your professor emphasizes. Pay attention to clues: Does the professor take care to repeat certain information? Does he make a point of saying, some things especially loudly and slowly? Does he write certain terms on the board? Does he say things like "You will need to know this" or "This is very important"? Do not ignore these clues; make special note of them.

2. Pay close attention when your professor gives you specific information about an upcoming exam. Often, professors will knowingly or unknowingly drop important clues. Don't be shy about asking questions about the content or format of the exam. If your professor doesn't want to divulge certain information, he won't. There's no harm in asking though.

3. Try to anticipate the exam questions and share your predictions with classmates, so that you can benefit from each other's insights. Often, if you have paid attention during class, you will have an excellent idea of what the exam will cover. Trust your instincts. While you study, concentrate on the material that you expect the exam to emphasize. Touch on everything, because your predictions might be wrong. More often though, you'll be surprised by how accurate they are.

4. Go over the information in your lecture notes, the assigned readings, and any other course materials. It's best if you make your studying active; don not just read your notes until your eyes glaze over, your mind numbs, and you fall asleep. For example, sit at the computer and type an organized outline of the course material. This active process forces you to analyze and understand your notes, instead of just skimming them. (Also, you end up with some good study notes.) Other active study techniques include talking (explain the course's most important concepts to a friend) and writing (practice writing essays about topics that will probably be on the exam).

5. Don't try to cram. Allow yourself plenty of time to study. You will be more relaxed and the information will sink in more thoroughly. Cramming usually leads to exam-day panic.


For more help with essay exams, check out the handouts KEY WORDS ON ESSAY EXAMS and ESSAY EXAMS: TEST DAY.











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