An essay exam is one in which respondents respond to exam questions writing essays. This type of exam is meant to assess not only your knowledge, but also your ability to organize and present your thoughts under duress. Spelling ability is also assessed through essay exams. Many essay exams are now administered on the computer, with respondents using a very basic word processing program that will allow them to enter text, delete text, cut text, and paste text, but not to perform complex tasks like spellchecks.
The test taker is given a prompt in the form of a question or statement and asked to respond to it in an essay exam. Although the test may specify that it is a “short essay,” the test taker is not expected to go into great detail with the answers. In some cases, a single question makes up the entire exam, in which case the essay should be comprehensive. In other cases, the test may include multiple choice, short answer, and other types of questions, as well as multiple choice, short answer, and other types of questions.
Some essay exams give students the opportunity to practice beforehand. For example, in a literature class, students might be given a list of essay prompts and told to pick one to answer during the exam, or they might be given a list of possible questions and told to pick one on the day of the exam. A student may be permitted to bring in supporting materials such as an annotated text and a limited set of notes. Because the student has had some preparation time, the quality of the essay exam is expected to be higher in these cases.
Essay exams are dreaded some students, while they are enjoyed others. To do well on an essay exam, you’ll need a variety of test-taking skills. Time management and the ability to organize thoughts on the fly are both essential. Before beginning the essay, ask for scrap paper to use to create a rough outline and jot down notes; taking five minutes to read the prompt carefully, generate an initial response, and rough out an outline will significantly improve the quality of the essay.
Students who are unfamiliar with the format should practice before attempting it in a test setting. On the Internet, students can find a variety of sample essay exam questions on a variety of topics; they can choose one to respond to, set a time limit, and write an essay. This can also be a good study tool because it forces the student to think about the subject in new ways.