Essay Exams Quick Tips

  • Use an erasble pen. Remember: Neatness does count!
  • Underline key words in your essay prompt — By doing so, you will be able to look back quickly and see if you are answering the question.
  • Outline the answer before writing your essay — Use the inside cover of the blue book and write down the information you know and then number it in the order of writing your essay.
  • Make sure you have an introductory paragraph — In this paragraph you want to make sure that you state the main point of your essay (i.e., your thesis statement).
  • Make sure that your body paragraphs are cohesive — Each one should focus on and develop a single point that supports your thesis.
  • Make sure you have a concluding paragraph — This paragraph may summarize your main points or offer some conclusions that you have reached through your analysis.

Helpful Terms To Know

Analyze – Break into separate parts and discuss or interpret.

Compare – Examine qualities or characteristics in order to discover similarities.

Contrast – Show differences between two or more ideas, topics, concepts, etc.

Criticize – Make judgments as to a given topic or evaluate its worth by backing up your statement with specific examples.

Define – Give a clear, specific meaning.

Describe – Give a detailed account. Include characteristics and qualities.

Diagram – Present a chart, plan, or graphic representation.

Discuss – Examine an issue and present or argue its pros and cons with details and examples.

Enumerate – List several ideas, aspects, events, reasons, etc.

Evaluate – Give your opinion or the opinion of an expert. Include both advantages and limitations.

Explain – Clarify and interpret material presented. State “who,” what,” “where,” and “why.”

Illustrate – Give concrete examples.

Interpret – Comment upon, give examples, and describe relationships.

Justify – Give reasons or prove.

List – Present an itemized series.

Outline – Give main points and necessary supplementary material, omitting details.

Prove – Support with facts or evidence.

Relate – Show how things interconnect.

State – Explain precisely.

Summarize – Give the main points or facts in condensed form.

Support – Back up statements with facts and proof.

Trace – Show the order or progress of events.

This list was excerpted from Newbury College’s Academic Support Services website.

Essay Example:

Compare and contrast the differences between high school and college in terms of academics, career preparation, and social life.

  • How are you going to organize the essay prior to writing it?

For additional strategies on essay exams, you may want to visit these websites:

Study Guide and Strategies

Tips for Writing Essay Exams