Ridley College Exam Prep: 10 Tips for Writing Short Answer Exams

As you prep for exams the Learning Centre is here to help!  Do you have an exam that will include short answer questions? Read the tips below to help you:

Short answer type questions can be difficult because you are required to recall the information directly from memory without clues. Use the following tips to help you:

Tip #1: Plan your Response Before You Start to Write– Since there are parameters of time and space, it is important to know what you want to say and how you are going to say it in the space provided. Brainstorm your ideas (jot down relevant concepts) and then decide on the order you will discuss them. It is important to be organized and easily understood.

Tip #2: Limit your Response to Fit in the Space Provided – Don’t spend all of your time trying to make your answer too long. Focus on quality opposed to quantity. If allowed, use point form to avoid an unnecessary level of wordiness.

Tip #3: Include Examples as Support– Rather than multiple explanations, use an example to clarify your point.

Tip #4: Write Neatly and Follow Directions – Your teacher cannot give you the marks if they cannot decipher your writing. Your answer should be double-spaced and grammatically correct with few spelling mistakes.

Tip #5: Consider the Weight – Look at the worth of the question to determine how much you should write. The more points, the more details you should include.

Tip #6: Read the Questions Carefully – The format for short answer questions can differ. Sometimes the question may require you to choose a topic, choose from a list of topics, or have one mandatory topic.

Tip #7: Budget your Time – These types of questions are typically worth a larger value of marks. It is important that you do not run out of time. Decide how much time you have per question and monitor your time closely.

Tip #8: Underline Key Words in the Question and Note the # of Parts – Start by rephrasing the question into your response. The number of parts is an indication as to the number of things you are required to discuss. Be sure that you are answering every part of the question required.

Tip #9: Use Standard Essay Format– Unless directed to use another format, use standard essay format. Include an introduction with thesis statement, typically three body paragraphs, and a brief conclusion.

Tip #10: Use All the Exam Time – Check that you have answered all the questions to the best of your ability. It is not a race to see who leaves the room first. Ignore what others do, especially early leavers.

*Review your marked exam, especially if you are unhappy with the results. Determine why your performance wasn’t as expected, adjust your studying and exam writing strategies for improved performance in the future.