Helpful Tips for Taking the Exam

The essay booklet distributed at the examination contains the following directions:

The examination consists of two essays, one on each of the questions that will be handed to you by the examination supervisor.  For each question, you will have 45 minutes to plan and write your essay.  Write only on the assigned topic.  An essay on a topic of your choice is not acceptable.

This examination is your opportunity to demonstrate that you can write effectively.  You should therefore take care to express your thoughts on each topic clearly and exactly.  Be specific, using supporting examples whenever appropriate.  Remember that how well you write is much more important than how much you write.

You are to write your essays in this booklet.  You should, of course, write neatly and legibly.  To be certain that you have enough space for both essays, do not skip lines, write in excessively large letters, or leave wide margins.  You may use the top of page 2 of the booklet for any notes you wish to make before you begin writing.

Turn the page and, when your supervisor directs you to do so, begin work on Question 1.  Stop work on Question 1 when your supervisor directs you to do so.  Then follow the same procedure for Question 2.

Managing Your Time During the Exam

Except as length reflects full development, the length of your essay is not important, but it is important that you complete your essay.  It is thus essential that you plan your response so that you can finish your essays in the allotted time.  In order to use your time most efficiently, keep the following points in mind:

  1. Read the topic two or more times before writing.  Circle key words to help you focus on the assigned task.  (See below for definitions of some key words commonly used in essay questions.)  
  2. Take a few  minutes to think and organize your thoughts before you begin writing. Jot down your ideas (there is sufficient note space in the examination booklet), but avoid making long outlines which will rob you of writing time.  
  3. Don't let spelling slow down your writing.  Keep the flow of your writing going and correct spelling errors when proofreading.
  4. Leave a few minutes at the end to proofread your essay.  Don't try to make extensive changes at this time, but correct grammatical and spelling errors and other minor flaws.  
  5. Do not attempt to recopy your essay for the sake of neatness.  If your essay is legible, don't be concerned about the appearance of crossouts and corrections.

Important Terms Used in Essay Questions

The following terms commonly occur in essay topics.  Since you are required to write on the assigned topic, it is essential that you understand the meaning of these key terms:

  • Analyze:  Separate the assertion, statement, idea, etc., into its component parts in order to understand and explain their relationships.
  • Argue (or Present a Point of View):  Take only one point of view (either pro or con) and substantiate that position.  Don't be concerned about taking the "right" or "wrong" position.  Just be sure that whichever position you take is soundly and clearly supported.
  • Comment:  Express a personal reaction or opinion.
  • Compare:  Set up a comparison between items, focusing on their similarities.
  • Contrast:  Set up a comparison between items, focusing on their differences.
  • Describe:  Use adjectives, adverbs, and descriptive phrases to create a mental picture for your reader.
  • Evaluate:  Examine something--an assertion, statement, idea, etc.--to determine its worth and judge its value.
  • Explain:  Provide reasons substantiating an opinion or strengthening an argument.  Answer the question "why?"

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