Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Tips For Writing Tests and Exams: #ExamTips #Teens #HighSchool

Some Tips and Tricks to Help With Exam and Test Writing. 

Each year twice a year I review with my kids the basic guidelines for studying for and writing an exam. Nothing beats being prepared and studying properly for a test or exam, but even with preparation there are a few tricks and tips to increase your success on a test.
Reasons to read entire exam over first:
·        Pay special attention to the instructions and what is being asked, such as whether there is a penalty for incorrect answers, what the mark value is for each question, and if you are required to answer all questions or for example 2 of 3, or one from each category. It would be a shame to waste time answering more OR lose marks for answering less than is required. Remember that part of the exam is testing your ability to understand and follow the instructions.
·        By reading and underlining key words in the question it will force you to focus and remind you as you go through the exam what the instructions are and what is being asked for a specific question(s).
·        You will find out at the beginning of the exam if you need clarification on any part of the exam, such as if rough notes can be handed in or does everything have to be written on the exam or tests sheets, or if a question that is not clear. BTW: It is okay to ask for clarification. Worse case they say they cannot give you any clarification or information.
·        Sometimes questions (and in the case of multiple choice the answers) contain the answers or clues to other questions, can jog your memory or help with ones you are not sure of.
Important Things to Remember:
·        If not indicated in exam instructions ASK if rough notes on sheets that are not part of the official exam can be handed in. If so hand them ALL in and number which question the notes are for. If not, be sure that all your notes are on the exam sheets. Often you will get partial marks for point form notes, even if you did not have time to answer the question fully.
·        Show all your work and the thought process that brought you to your answer. Often an incorrect answer will get you partial marks if you can show how you came to that answer.
·        Budget Your Time: This is important! If you spend the entire time answering 20 multiple choice questions worth 20 marks, but do not answer the 1 essay question worth 40 marks you will do poorly on the exam. Assign time based on the mark value of the questions and whether a question is mandatory to answer in order to pass the exam.
Example: 1 Hour Exam
 5 min: to read over entire exam
10 min: to answer 20 multiple choice questions (20 marks)
15 min: to answer 10 short answer questions (40 marks)
20 min: to answer 1 5 paragraph essay question (40 marks)
10 min: to review and proof answers and to go back to any incomplete answers
60 min total
·        Reminder: read the entire question and underline key words, concepts and requirements  (e.g. 2 parts)
·        Answer easiest questions first, and circle (in pencil) those you do not know the answer to, or you are having difficulty answering in full. Circling will make it easy for you to find them later. Erase the circle as you complete the questions.
·        Write legibly. If a teacher cannot read your answer, no matter how brilliant the answer you won’t get marks for it. Poor writing in essay questions breaks the flow and concentration of the reader and impacts the overall impression of the quality of the answer.
Multiple Choice Questions:
·        Read the entire question before you answer. Ideally you know the answer before you read the answer options.
·        Read ALL of the answer options before answering the question. You are looking for the MOST correct answer. All the answers may be true but you are looking for the one that answers the question most fully or correctly.
·        If there is no penalty for incorrect answers and you are unsure of the answer try to eliminate as many of the options as possible, or the obviously wrong answers.
          If you know that at least 1 answer is true – then eliminate “none of the above” Same holds true if you 
          know at least 1 answer to be false then eliminate “all of the above”.
          If the question uses “an” then you are looking for an answer that starts with a vowel. If the question 
          uses “a” then you are looking for an answer that starts with a consonant.
·        Can’t say this enough - often exam questions and answers contain the answer or clues to the answer to other questions, or can jog your memory.
Essay Questions:
These are generally worth the most marks on an exam and can contain multiple parts to the question. Be sure to read the instructions very carefully. If you write a fantastic essay that doesn’t answer the question, or only part of the question your marks will reflect this. Be sure to hand in any notes or essay outlines you do. If you run out of time you may get part marks for these notes.
·        Organize your thoughts and make a quick outline of your answer. This shows your thought process to the teacher and reduces having to try to erase or rewrite to reorganize, add to or edit your answer after the fact. It will improve the flow of your essay.
·        Be sure you understand the question being asked, and the purpose of the essay. Is your essay to inform, persuade, give an opinion, or merely to entertain? (Note: do not use “I” or “me” or the first person unless it is an editorial or opinion essay)
·        Types of Essays:    Narrative
                                      Editorial or Opinion
                                      Compare and Contrast
                                      Cause and Effect
·        Essays are generally a minimum of five paragraphs; introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. Each paragraph should be a minimum of four to five sentences long. 
          Paragraph One - The introduction: Includes the thesis statement, what the essay is about, and the 
          position being taken. Usually it restates the question in some way, and tries to hook the reader or grab 
          their attention.
         Paragraph Two – Body Paragraph 1: The first point, and generally your 2nd strongest point to grab the reader’s attention. Each of the body paragraphs should include a point, evidence of this point (e.g. fact or quote) and an explanation why this evidence helps to support or prove your point. This is called the P.E.E. method: Point Evidence Explanation.       
          Paragraph Three – Body Paragraph 2: Weakest point, since you still have the reader’s attention at 
          this point in the essay.
          Paragraph Four – Body Paragraph 3: strongest point, since your readers attention may be starting to 
          wane, and this leads into conclusion.
          Paragraph Five – Conclusion: Restates thesis position and pulls the body paragraphs together, with a 
          call to action.
·        If you are unsure of exact dates show you know the chronological order of events, and understanding of why this order is important, for example cause and effect. Another option is to use approximations such as approximately 250, in the 1920’s, the dirty thirties, 1600th century, or mid century.
·        Know the mark value. If an essay is worth 40 marks then there should be sufficient points and evidence backing up those points to account for 40 marks. In other words 4 or 5 sentences are probably not going to cut it.
If you are finished your exam early Do Not Leave!
If you are done early take the time to proof your work and make sure you have indeed answer the questions being asked and all parts of the question. Can you improve your answers by clarifying, improving flow, or adding detail?

Here are a few links with Tips on Exam Writing you might find helpful:
Yep, just me Cathy thinking out loud about exam time.

1 comment :

  1. Cathy - this is perfect! I always brought in highlighters to my exams to note key words. I also found I can always ask for some clarification on a question which can be helpful - it never hurts to ask! Also definitely agree in reading the entire exam over beforehand. This saved me many-a-time!