Preparing for Exams
(Continued from 1)
Don't forget course definitions your instructor
won't. Especially in introductory courses, there are
usually some terms to learn. You can call it jargon,
or academic gobbledygook, but it's a sure thing that
if your instructors have explained it, they will expect
you to understand it well enough to provide a definition.
What do you do when you've found the examination questions?
Write them down, and underneath, write the answers.
You'll find the answers right where you found the questions
in your notes, and course readings.
However, don't waste your valuable study time making
up multiple choice questions for the test. They're tricky
for professionals to write, and you don't want to spend
3/4 of your time focusing on the wrong answers! Instead,
write the questions that you think will be multiple
choice as fill-in-the-blanks. Make yourself an answer
key, set the questions aside for a couple of days, then
take your stress-free prep test.
College essay questions are a little harder to write,
which is only fair, since they are a harder to answer
well. Here your instructor likely won't be looking for
a simple definition, or a straight repetition of what
you have written in your notes. You need to provide
proof that you've read and understood the material,
and can apply it in practice, or demonstrate the point
you're making using examples.
So what does that look like as a question? The kinds
of words you need here are words like analyze,
explain and demonstrate. For
example, a literature exam might ask you to analyze
or explain a character's actions. In chemistry, you
might have to explain what happens when two elements
are combined in a particular way. Essay questions are
often looking for the 'why,' not just who or how.
But remember, you do not have to make this stuff up!
Go back to your notes and the college course outline.
Can you phrase any of the professor's stated goals as
essay questions? Can you think of an essay question
that would be answered by a section of your notes?
When exam day dawns, of course, you'll need to
answer the questions the instructor poses, not the
ones you practiced with. But the work you've done in
predicting and practicing with questions will give
you confidence to follow all that other good advice
for exam-writing: read carefully, manage your time,
and enjoy showing your grasp of the course material.
Mary Wilson received her M.A. in Educational Studies (Adult Education) at the University of British Columbia, Canada.