Preparing for essay exams

In English , your list would NOT be a list of authors or books that you have read.

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Instead, it would be a list of themes that are common to them: literary techniques, self and society, gender etc. Step 2 : Now go back and read through your notes again. This time, you are looking for details such as authors, key terms, events, and examples. Use these details to flesh out your study guide and to show how the details build your understanding of the themes.

English Essay, Junior English essays

When professors write essay questions, they usually review the material they have covered and try to choose topics that will require students to bring together the major themes of the course. By guessing the questions that will be on the exam, you will engage in the same process.

Look through your syllabus, lecture and reading notes, and study guide. What concepts or themes have been developed throughout the term?

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What questions would you ask if you were the professor? While you are guessing the questions and preparing for an essay exam, it can be very helpful to consult previous exams in the course.


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While it is unlikely that a professor would use exactly the same questions again on your exam, it can be helpful to get a sense of the types of questions that he or she has asked in the past. Do use old exams to study, but do so with care. The Trent library maintains an online database of previous exams from which you can search for exams given in your course. Trying to identify what questions might be on the exam is, of course, only one part of studying for the exam.

You also need to try to create answers to these questions.

Teaching Tips: A Student Guide to Essay Exams

You can do this by outlining answers. Begin with a clear thesis that addresses the question, and then create a section of the outline that develops each part of your thesis. Finally, add in specific examples that you would use to support your ideas in the appropriate section.

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You can also write full answers to the essay questions you devise as you study. The act of writing will help you to remember the material, and although the identical question may not appear on the exam, you will usually be able to employ the connections and supporting details in a response that addresses similar issues. One of the best ways to learn material is to talk about it with others. As you do, you deepen your understanding not only by having to explain concepts or themes to others but also by hearing their perspective on the central issues of the course.

While you will ultimately take an exam, and thus need to know course information, on your own, study groups can be a great supplement to independent study activities. Each group member could come prepared with one or two potential exam questions, and then other group members could try to answer them.


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Or, the entire group could review the course syllabus together and identify central themes or particularly challenging material. Through the process of discussing the information with others, you will increase your understanding and thus be studying for your essay exam.

You will need either a scanner or a scanning app for your smartphone to scan and upload your handwritten essays and modified essays. As soon as the College confirms that it is switching to typed essays and modified essays, the Course will as well. For now, all submissions must be handwritten as in the exam. You must watch the introduction modules first, then plan and prepare for your revision, then come back and work progressively through the other modules.

Exam Study Tips

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