Strategies for answering test and exam questions by taoyni


									                                                                University of Waikato
                                 Teaching and learning Development Unit
                                                   Te Waahanga Whakapakari Ako

         Examinations – performance strategies
 1.   Basic information
 2.   Multi-choice questions
 3.   Short answer questions
 4.   Exam essay questions
 5.   Problem solving questions

                              1. Basic information

a. Exams are usually three hours long;

b. Official university answer booklets are provided for you to write your
answers in;

c. Extra sheets of paper are also provided – but you will need to put your hand
up and ask for these. Use this extra paper to make rough notes and essay plans
– you can also use it to continue answers if you run out of space in your answer

d. You will need to bring a pen(s);

e. Generally you may not bring any other materials (dictionaries, books,
electronic equipment etc.) into an exam. Your lecturer will advise you if there are
special materials you must or can bring;

f. You must bring your student ID card with you and place it on your desk;

g. If you miss an exam because of illness or any other reason, or you sit an
exam feeling unwell and think your performance may be affected – go
immediately to the Assessment Office at Gateway and talk to the staff about
applying for special consideration;

h. Your lecturer / tutors will not be present at the exam. Exams are supervised
by people called invigilators. If you are confused about the meaning of a
question during the exam you may ask an invigilator to telephone the lecturer
to clarify the meaning of the question.

i. Before the exam – make sure you know when and where the exam is. If you
are unfamiliar with the exam room – make sure you know how to find it, where
the parking / public transport is. Better still, actually go there, go inside. Get a feel
for the space.

                          2. Multi-choice questions

a. Check how much time you have to answer the multi-choice section. How
much time does that give you to answer each question? Use this as a guide.

b. Read the question and try to answer it in your head first - before you read
the options. (Tip – when you are thinking about the answer in your head put your
hand over the options so you can’t see them.)

c. Read through the options and try to eliminate the ones that are not right.
Multi-choice questions usually have an answer that is obviously wrong, then two
or three that are very similar: but be careful. Often you zoom into the keywords of
an answer and think it is right but forget to look at the details which actually make
it wrong.

d. Do not struggle over a question: if you cannot work out the answer quickly,
leave it and come back to it later. If you take five minutes to answer one question
you may have got it right and got two marks but you could have used that time to
get five other questions right and get ten marks. Leave the hard ones and come
back to them.

e. Answer all the questions. If you leave questions make sure you come back
to them and put an answer in, even if you are unsure. If you do not know what
the answer is: guess. You may get lucky—one of the answers has to be right! If
you do not put any answer down you have no chance of getting it right.

f. When you check through your paper and you think an answer is wrong—
change it. Often you come back to the multi-choice at the end of an exam, to
check the answers and fill gaps. Your brain is buzzing and you have spent the
best part of three hours thinking about the subject. Research has shown that
students are three times more likely to change a wrong answer to a right one
than to change a right answer to a wrong one.


                        3. Short answer questions

a. Short answers are just that: short answers. You will not have enough time to
write much, so keep to the point. A short answer is usually two or three
sentences, or a list.

b. Your answers must incorporate the key points, key words, ideas or phrases
the marker is looking for.

c. Stick to your time schedule. Work out how much time you have for each

d. Plan your answer. Take a few seconds to quickly jot down notes, and then

e. Answer the actual questions given. Do not just write about the topic.

f. Leave one or two lines after each answer in case you remember something
important later on.

g. Try to answer all the questions. If you leave a question until later, make sure
you return to it and attempt it. There may have been information in the exam
which jogged your memory about a short answer.

h. If you do not know the complete answer, put down what you know. It is
better to get one mark than no marks at all.


                          4. Exam essay questions

Time allocation

a. Choose the questions you will answer during the reading time.

b. Check how much time you have to answer each question. Know when you
have to stop.

c. If you have not finished your answer, jot down the rest in note form. It will
show the marker what you know, and you may receive some marks for it.

d. Do not go over your allocation time. Move on to the next question. You can
come back to it later in your 15 minute check at the end of the exam.
On the day

e. Read the question carefully.

f. Highlight or underline the content words. What is the topic?

g. Highlight or underline the verbs e.g. ‘identify’, ‘describe’, ‘compare and
contrast’, ‘evaluate’. What are you being asked to do with the topic?


h. Allow yourself time to think.

i. Plan your answer. During the first five to twenty minutes jot down on a spare
piece of paper all the relevant points you can remember on all the essay
questions you will answer.

j. Organise these points into logical order by numbering or use alphabetising -
a, b, c.

k. As a general rule, one paragraph = one point, supported by examples,
explanations, and evidence. Begin the paragraph with a sentence that contains
your key point

l. Timing guide: for 30 minutes of writing allow five to seven minutes to plan; it is
worth it - planning saves time.



m. Make sure your writing is legible. Remember, the marker will be marking
many papers over a relatively short period of time. She or he will not have time to
decipher messy writing. (Tip - many of us now ‘write’ most of our work on a
keyboard and are unused to writing with a pen for long periods of time. You may
wish to practice writing with a pen for an hour or two at a time during the days
before your exam.)

n. In essays, write in sentences and paragraphs. These should be linked in
logical order. As a general rule, the marker will not be looking for wonderful
prose; they will be looking for key points.

o. If you run out of time, put the key points down in note form. It is better to
put it down in some form than not to put it down at all.

p. Do not worry too much about punctuation, grammar and spelling. You
will waste valuable time if you agonise over a full stop or whether you have spelt
something correctly. You can check these details at the end of the exam in your
15 minute check time, if you have time after filling in any gaps.

q. Write so it makes sense. If you do not use any punctuation and make many
spelling mistakes, the marker will not be able to read it and you will lose marks.

r. Do not waffle, e.g. do not write out the question at the beginning of your
answer, or explain the origins of something when you are actually being asked to
identify its main features. This wastes time - yours and the markers. If you plan
your essay first, you will be less likely to waffle.


                      5. Problem solving questions

a. Write down relevant formulas, equations and rules

b. Clearly show the steps you have taken in working out the answers

c. If necessary (and appropriate) write some notes to explain your answers.

d. For numerical problems involving computation, make sure you include
the appropriate units (e.g. ml. xm. m/sec etc.) in your final answer(s). Underline
your final answer, as it will help with clarity.

e. Go through and solve the easier problems first and return to the more
difficult ones later.

Much of this material was sourced from and



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