How to Get Good Grades on Essay Tests
You can handle multiple choice and short-answer tests. But when faced with a time limit and a blank page, many students panic. Essay tests can take some getting used to, but they’re not so bad if you know the strategy. Here are a few tips for getting a good score on your next essay test.
Know Your Topic
First, be sure to answer the question that’s asked. Many students get low grades on essay tests in both traditional and online colleges because they write an excellent essay that doesn’t have anything to do with the topic. Keep on track by starting off with a strong topic sentence that clearly answers the question, and let this guide the rest of your work.
By the time you get to the essay test, you should know what your professor or the testing conventions expect when it comes to structure. Your professor may not expect a perfectly polished essay, but good organization can go a long way toward boosting your grade. Know how to write a topic sentence and support your points with evidence. If you have trouble here, a online courses on essay writing for college assignments can help.
Line Up Your Evidence
Choose your evidence before the test day. Most professors will give you a good idea of the topics they might put on the essay exam. If they don’t, brainstorm some likely essay topics based on what you’ve covered in class. Your professor will probably expect you to back up your points with some sort of evidence; often this takes the form of citations of book, article and study authors. Choose three or four sources you can use as proof for a variety of points you might need to make. You won’t be expected to quote verbatim, but make sure you can paraphrase some important points you can use as proof in essays on a variety of topics.
Watch the Clock
Good timing is crucial. Many students fail at the essay test because they aren’t good with time management. Generally speaking, if your essay test is worth 40% of your test grade, spend 40% of your time on it. In addition, spend more time on brainstorming and outlining than you think—some educators suggest as much as half your time. If you can organize your thoughts ahead of time, your writing time will be much faster and more coherent.
Most professors don’t mind if you revise as long as you don’t just keep adding to your essay as thoughts come to you—organization is key. Feel free to cross out and make notes in margins, as long as things are neat enough to read. It’s a good idea to write on only every other line if you’re using lined paper, or leave plenty of space between lines if you’re not.
Cover the Main Points
In many classes, professors expect you to cover certain main points and get specific with examples. Avoid generalities and make sure you don’t make any points you can’t back up with cited evidence.
It can be helpful to write out several essays based on questions you’ll probably see on the test before you take it. Time yourself and work on organization, specific evidence, and developing your ideas. If you go in prepared, knowing the main points you’ll bring up and the evidence you can use in case of several different essay options, you’ll be much more likely to score high on the test.
Review New Vocabulary
If you’re studying a jargon-rich topic, know the words and phrases common to it. This will help you sound more knowledgeable in your essay, and it will also help you understand the question and answer it accurately. Make a list of vocabulary words you’ll need to know on the essay test beforehand.
Essay tests can be intimidating—but with proper preparation, your essay test scores can improve. Students commonly do badly on these tests because of poor time management, lack of preparation, and the simple mistake of failing to answer the question that’s asked. Write out some essay answers to several probable questions beforehand. Choose applicable evidence you can apply to a lot of different points, and make sure you use your time wisely and stay organized when it’s time to take the test. If you do, you may find that essay tests aren’t so difficult after all.
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