Answering Essay Questions Made Easier

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Instructors frequently remark that a major reason that students don’t receive higher grades on essay exams is because they do not follow directions even when these directions are included in the question. These instructors add that many students don’t seem to know how to recognize words in questions that give directions on how to construct an essay answer and what to include. A list of important words in essay questions has been given below to help students answer essay questions with the kinds of responses that instructors seek. These words are called KEY WORDS! One suggestion many students have found helpful is to mark all the KEY WORDS in all test directions and question before beginning to answer. This makes it easier to organize an answer, know what to say, and know when enough has been written. If there is ever doubt about the clarity of a test question, ask the professor for clarification before beginning your answer. KEY WORDS Explain, step by step or point by point while writing. Pay attention to who, what, where, when, why, and how in the answer. Include strengths, weaknesses, pros and cons, research for and against. Stress similarities and differences between objects, concepts, or ideas. (For example: “Compare Operant and Classical Conditioning) Emphasize the dissimilarities, differences, or unique and distinguishing characteristics in the response. Clearly state the meaning, list qualities, traits, or characteristics. Include traits, characteristics, or retell a story including those facts that summarize the essential features. Present significant characteristics, pros and cons, pertinent research, and the significance of each. Develop the arguments for and against or analyze the advantages, disadvantages, or problems. Emphasize positive and negative aspects. Include opinions and support these with some kind of proof, information, or examples. Normally, instructors don’t like unsupported opinions from college students. Use brief stories, analogies,...
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