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Studying and Test Taking

Essay Tests and Short Answer

Essay Tests

Words to Watch for:

  • Compare: Examine and identify similarities.
  • Contrast: Show differences.
  • Describe: Give a detailed account. List characteristics & qualities.
  • Discuss: Tell all you can in a logical order.
  • Explain: Make an idea clear.  Show how a concept is developed.
  • Illustrate:  Explain by using comparison and concrete examples.
  • Interpret: Explain the meaning and describe the relationships.
  • Summarize: Give a brief account of the information.

Strategies for answering Essay questions:

  1. Read the question at least twice – figure out what the question is asking.
  2. Underline key words (compare, contrast, etc.)
  3. Make an outline: It will help make sure you don’t leave out important information.
  4. Paraphrase the question as your topic sentence – get right to the point. (Avoid “there are many interesting facts that are part of this question).
  5. Expand your answer with supporting ideas and facts.
  6. Use good paragraph structure (topic, supporting, concluding sentences).
  7. Proofread for grammar, spelling and punctuation!

Strategies for answering Short Answer questions:

  • Read and re-read the question to make sure you understand it.
  • Follow a three-step process to write a response:
    • Restate the question.
    • Answer the question by providing a fact or definition.
    • Support your fact or definition by providing an example.

When defining vocabulary terms, be sure to:

  • Write in complete sentences.
  • Explain how the term relates to the topic of study or give an example from your studies.

Multiple Choice and True/False

Multiple Choice

  • Read and re-read the question to make sure you understand it. 
  • Answer the question in your head before you look at the possible answers.
  • Read all the possible answers before making a final decision. 
  • Look for answers in other questions on the test.
  • Use the process of elimination if you are unsure of the answer:
    • Eliminate answers you know cannot be correct.
    • If two options are very close, choose one of them.
    • If there is no penalty for guessing, never leave a blank!

True/False Questions:

  • Read each question carefully–look for qualifier words like “always," "never," "all," "sometimes," "most,” etc.  
    • Absolute qualifiers such as "always" or "never" generally indicate a false statement. 
    • Qualifiers like "some" or "a few" generally indicate a true answer.
  • If any part of the question is false, the entire statement is false.

Math and Science Tests

Overcoming Math and Science AnxietyA hundred cartloads of anxiety will not pay an ounce of debt. – Italian proverb

When learning new science and math content, keep these principles in mind…

1.  Concepts build upon prior knowledge. 

  • Science and math classes are “text driven”—each chapter builds upon the previous one.
  • Master content before moving on to a more challenging class. 

2.  Make using your text book a priority.

  • Actively read—margin note and highlight main ideas and details.
  • Study diagrams and pictures in the chapter.

3.  Actively participate in class.

  • Lab activities reinforce new information.
  • Ask questions.
  • Don’t worry if others “get it” 1stkeep trying, and it will come to you!

When taking a Math or Science test…

1.  Restate questions into English.

  • Make sure you understand what the question is asking:
    • c2 = a2 + b2, which is   
    • The square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides

2.  Think before you act.

  • Read the problem twice before beginning.
  • Set up the problem before you solve it.

3.  Draw a picture.

  • A visual can trigger a memory.
  • Also a great study strategy!

4. Make an educated guess before working the problem (or looking at possible answers).

  • Work out the answer.
  • Is your “guess” one of the options? If so, it’s probably right!
  • Systematically check your answers.

Top Ten Test-Taking Mistakes

10. Didn’t follow the directions.
Always read the directions before starting.

9. Ran out of timespent too much time on one section. 
Figure out how much time you have per questionmove on if you are stumped!
8. Changed answers from correct to incorrect. 
Only change an answer if you are positive that you wrote the wrong answer1st impressions are often correct. 

7. Didn’t go back and review answers. 
Always leave time to read over your answersthose who do often score higher.
6. Made careless mistakes. 
Make sure you read the question carefully and double-check your answer. 
5. Didn’t support essay answers with facts and details. 
Be sure the info you are studying from has the required details and supporting examples.
4. Accidentally marked the wrong bubble on the answer sheet.
Double check!
3. Didn’t understand the question, and didn’t ask for help.
Ask for clarification/for the teacher to rephrase the question, or restate the question to the teacher to make sure you understand what is being asked.
2. Wrote lots of words, but didn’t really answer the question. 
Circle and underline key words in the questionidentify how many parts there are to the question, and make sure you answer them all. 

1. Didn’t know the test material very well!
Take better notes, actively review every day, ask your teacher for help, join a study group.