The most effective tips on writing an essay exam

Guest Post By Lois Weldon

Are you one of the many students who are wildly hoping to avoid the overly-demanding essay exams? I am truly sorry, but that isn’t likely to happen, as you will definitely find yourself taking an exam that isn’t solely based on multiple choice answers, but demands wiring long or short essay answers instead. This is particularly possible on exams for subjects like political science, sociology, literature, philosophy and history. You should not look at this as a punishment, because it can be really fun to think with your own head and get away from the multiple choice answer routine from time to time. By following the guidelines provided in this article, you are going to ace your next essay exam and wish for more to come!

Understand the questions!

Being in a hurry to hand over your exam paper faster won’t get you any extraordinary results. Take your time to read all questions thoroughly after the initial phase of panic passes. Every question contains some keywords that can serve as guidance for providing a focused answer. Focus your writing on the key points and make sure to answer the question; do not go round and round just to write something down! When you read through all questions, some of them will fit within your comfort level, while others will be completely confusing. Make sure to plan your time wisely. Do not waste too much time starting with the most difficult questions, because they can take all of your time away, they will make you nervous and you won’t be able to answer the easier questions before you hand over the paper.

Pay attention to each answer!

Your paper won’t be marked with the highest score if you fail to provide decent answers to each question. Providing only one good answer won’t get you anywhere far, no matter how impressive it is. Each of your answers is like a mini-essay, which means that you can create a special approach of wiring shortened versions of the process you are used to when writing real, full-length essays. If you spend some minutes in outlining your answers, that will save you a lot of effort and time, so you will be able to answer all questions effectively. Forget about re-writing an answer you are not satisfied with. You can allow yourself that kind of luxury only if there is enough time after you answer all questions. There is another reason why re-writing your answers is bad: the cross outs will lead your instructor to the conclusion that you weren’t prepared enough. However, if you outline your answers and write down some marginal notes of the initial brainstorming process, your instructor will be impressed by you for life… well, for the rest of the year to say the least.

Answer the requirements!

Your instructor may determine the exam to be answered in a rhetorical mode, which requires analyzing, defining, comparing, evaluating, illustrating or synthesizing the topic. You have to completely understand the requirements and make sure to answer such questions appropriately. Think of the answering process as drafting a full-length essay. Start your answer with one or two direct statements that answer the question straight to the point. These first statements equal the thesis statement of an actual essay, which you will need to support with clear arguments and specific examples further in the answer.

Final tip: Academic level of writing

You cannot answer the questions on your essay exam with the same language and phrases you use while talking with your friends over coffee break. This is where the practice of multiple choice answers has damaged the educational system: most students aren’t aware of the rules of proper academic writing. You cannot expect a high grade if you don’t sound educated enough for it. It is very important to read your answers before you hand over the paper, proofread them and make corrections if necessary. Don’t do the corrections by crossing out and making a complete mess; make sure to make only the necessary corrections, in a legible and neat way.

Lois Weldon is writer at She lives happily in London with her husband and lovely daughter. Adores writing tips for students. Passionate about Star Wars and yoga.