In-Class Essay Exam Preparation
|When you have only a short time to write an essay exam, the idea of spending precious minutes preparing to write may seem impractical. However, a few minutes of preparation may save you from wasting many minutes on exam panic, side tracks, or even a whole essay that doesn't answer the question.|
Analyzing the Question
|The first step in preparing to write is to analyze the question, that is, to break it down into its main parts. The typical question is not a question at all but actually a command - "do this". The question usually consists of three basic parts:
In other words, an exam question usually falls into the basic form "Do X to Y in relation to Z." For example:
Professors usually construct their questions carefully in hopes of evoking what they will consider meaningful responses. By analyzing a question, you can discover guidelines and even clues that will point you towards an appropriate answer.
What attitudes does Nixon want the American people to adopt concerning himself, Watergate, and the Whitehouse tapes, and how does he use language and logic in this speech to influence their opinion?
You may find it helpful to rephrase such questions as commands. For example:
Summarize the attitudes that Nixon wants the American people to adopt concerning himself, Watergate, and the Whitehouse tapes, and analyze the way he uses language and logic in this speech to influence their opinion.
You can now analyze the question in the way suggested above.
Getting Ready To Write
|Analyzing the exam question will start you thinking about what material you will have to cover, how you might organize it, what your thesis or main point might be, and what statements of general significance you might make in your introduction and conclusion. Allow yourself five to ten minutes (depending on the time allotted for the question) to prepare your answer.