An essay test item requires you to recall and organize information and to communicate the information in an extended writing form. Your response to any essay test item should be:
- Focused. Write specifically to the question. Think about what you want to convey before you begin to write your answer. Don't pad your answer with all kinds of information in the hope that some of the information will be relevant to the question.
- Organized. Plan what you want to write before you actually begin to write your answer. Don't write your answer in a haphazard "think-as-you-go" manner. It is very helpful to prepare an outline that contains all the necessary points you want to have in your answer. Following the outline will help you produce a fluid answer that is easy for your teacher to follow.
- Supported. Do more than just state your points. Provide evidence for what you write. Using examples is an excellent way to bring your points across.
Here are some tips that will help you do your best when responding to an essay test item:
- Look to see if there is a direction word that tells you what you need to do to respond to the item.
- Write your answer legibly so that you do not have to waste time rewriting it.
- Budget your time if the test includes more than one item that must be answered. Don't spend so much time on one item that you have to rush to respond to the remainder of the test. In general, spend the most time on the items that count for the most points.
- Don't give your personal opinion unless the item calls for it.
- Use an approximation if you are not sure about an exact date or number. For example, rather than "1748," you could write "in the middle of the 18th century."
- Cross out anything you write but want to delete. This is faster and neater than trying to erase it.
- If you have time left after answering everything required, proofread your work quickly to correct any errors in spelling and mechanics, or any factual errors.
Most important of all, study well to master the information you need to know for the test.
See our article "Studying for Essay Tests."