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University of Newcastle Library guides

Exams: Understanding different types of exams

Tips and strategies for preparing for, and sitting, an exam

Understanding different types of exams

Multiple Choice

  • Read the question before you look at the answers.
  • Try to supply your own answer before reading the choices provided.
  • Accept the question at face value - don’t read anything in to it or assume that it is a ‘trick’ question.
  • Do not keep changing your answer, usually your first choice is the right one – unless you misread the question.
  • Completely fill in the answer space
  • Completely erase any errors or stray marks
  • Do not mark two answers as it will be marked incorrect
  • Record the answer in its properly numbered space
  • Do the easy questions first
  • Mark or highlight questions that you want  to reconsider
  • Guess only if there is no penalty for doing so
  • Check the paper at the end

Essay/short answer exams

Essay and short answer exams are designed to test  your ability to synthesise information and to organise your thoughts on paper.

TIPS:

  • be familiar with the terminology used in essay exam questions.
  • Take time to read the paper thoroughly.
  • Make sure you time yourself on each question – keep to the time you allocated.
  • Write an essay plan to keep your thoughts coherent and organised.
  • Always write the question number at the top of the page. 
  • Always give your answer in short answer and essay questions in the first sentence by using the wording of the question.

 Question

Structure your essay to include:

An introduction explicitly state your answer and the organisation of the essay

Body paragraphs 

  • Include supporting material and appropriate details for your answer.
  • Structure the body of the essay as you indicated in your introduction.
  • Use transitions to tie your ideas together.
  • Go back and reread the question and introduction if you are beginning to ramble.

The conclusion

re-answer the question and refer briefly to the main points in the body.

conclusion example

Tips

  • Leave space in between answers in case you have time to add any information you didn’t include in your essay.
  • If you run out of time answer in point form. Markers will often give you some marks for this.
  • If you have time at the end of the exam proof read your essay but remember that allowance has been made for the “lack of polish” in an essay exam.

Pathways and Learning Support

Contact us if you need help

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