as much about the test as possible beforehand. Though
you may not be provided with the essay question ahead of
time, you can ask other relevant questions.
What material will be on the exam?
Are you being tested on your ability to
remember specific facts, or are you being tested on your
ability to analyze?
Is the exam cumulative?
Reread textbooks, notes and study guides. Go over any
previous essay exams you have taken for the class.
Rewrite important points from your books,
notes and study guides.
What type of questions has your teacher
asked previously on essay exams?
What were your weaknesses on previous
essay exams? How do you think you could address these?
Remember that your audience is your teacher. Think about
what he/she has emphasized in class.
Are there any key points your teacher has
What did you spend the most time on in
sure you know the basic information for the course.
Which specific names, authors and titles
are you expected to know? (e.g.: historic figure, poem
group with classmates, create your own essay questions
based on what you found in your notes.
your own questions as a timed writing exercise.
Check to make sure your responses make
sense and answer the original question.
the question/directions thoroughly.
Take time to understand what is being
asked of you.
Look out for specific words such as
compare, contrast, analyze, argue, describe, summarize,
apply, cause, relate, evaluate and prove.
you are given several options for your essay, take brief
notes on each.
Decide which essay to write based upon
the content you have for each option. Do you have more
information for one essay than another? Is the content
Once you have decided which essay you are
writing, brainstorm to make an informal outline or a
list of main ideas.
Construct a clear thesis statement.
Your thesis statement is the most
important sentence in your essay.
It is an argument that directly answers
the question asked of you.
Use direct and concise language in your
Think about the rest of your essay as you
write the thesis statement. Will the content in your
paper be able to back up your thesis statement? Do you
have enough examples to support your thesis statement?
Will you be able to explain your point of view?
aware of your content. Almost all disciplines require an
Make sure that your content is not just a
list of facts.
Show how and why facts are relevant and
what they mean on a larger scale. (e.g.: For a History
exam, dates, names and casualties may be important facts
to include in an essay about a specific battle, but
explaining how that battle was significant in a larger
context is more important.)
Manage your time. Factor in planning, writing and
Spend less time on your organization than
you generally would. In essay exams, due to time
restrictions, your organization can be more
time to revise your writing at the end. If you fail to
read over your work, you may skip over areas where you
were unclear, leave out key points or make mistakes.
Visit the University Writing Center soon to become a
more flexible and expert writer!
For more information, call 410-543-6332
or visit us in GUC 206.