Final Exam Essays: Tips from 3 Professors

Final Exam Essays: Tips from 3 Professors

A final exam is the last assessment in a course of academic study.  It is frequently a comprehensive exam, meaning that it covers aspects of the entire course.  As such, final exams often feature a writing component.  This writing component sometimes takes the form of short essay questions via which a student is asked to respond to an open-ended inquiry in a few paragraphs.  More frequently, final exams require an essay or set of essays.  A final exam essay is a short text that presents the writer's individual, informed thoughts on a specific essay prompt.  Such compositions are common on final exams because they require learners to integrate various types of knowledge in one, synthesized text.

An essay written for a final exam will be quite different from a formal essay a pupil writes outside of class.  This is because a final exam essay must be composed within the span of the allotted test time.  Most formal essay assignments are intended to demonstrate a student's thoughtful consideration and original thinking on a certain topic.  Final exam reports should also demonstrate thoughtful consideration and original thinking, but because they must be fully executed in a brief amount of time, they are typically shorter than normal essays and often more informative than they are insightful.

To adequately and successfully complete the types of reports found on final exams, the student should spend some of his allotted time planning his assignment.  The prompt should be read carefully multiple times.  It is imperative to know exactly what the prompt is asking in order to respond to all of its components.  Next, the student should devote a few minutes to creating a concise outline.  A final exam will not allow time for a detailed plan of the report; however, a general idea of the points the writer wishes to address and the evidence that will be presented will assist greatly in the composition of a fully-developed essay.

The student should present his or her thesis, which should be in direct response to the question prompt, in the first paragraph.  The thesis should identify the writer's position on the topic and briefly describe the three or four points that he or she will make in defending that position.

The body of the document should follow the plan outlined in the thesis by devoting a paragraph to each of the three or four points mentioned in the thesis statement.  Each paragraph should begin with a topic sentence that defines the point being made, and then proceed to present examples of that point.

The essay conclusion should not be a summary of the body of the document, but should comment on how the point and evidence presented in the report further or bolster the position the writer has taken.

Finally, the student should reserve a few minutes for proofreading the report for grammar and style errors.

Viewpoint of Author #3

An examination is a formal process in which a student is asked a variety of queries related to the course that the student is taking.  The student then has to answer those questions with facts that he or she learned from the course.  The answers to the questions are then tallied and the student is assigned a grade for the course based on the number of correct responses.  However, there are many ways to take an examination, though the former explanation is a traditional explanation.  For some courses, such as a history or English course, learners will have to write an examination paper.

Students that are required to complete examination papers are generally told of the report in advance of the examination.  Therefore, learners can make sure that they research not only facts, but that they also understand facts and their connections to one another.  While many examinations require ROTE memorization skills, examination papers require analysis and critical understanding skills.  ROTE memorization means remembering information so that students can repeat it verbatim, such as the capitol of Nebraska.  

If a student is going to have a examination paper as part of his or her exam, the student should be prepared to go to the class with extra paper or with a blue book.  A blue book is a small notebook that many schools require learners to purchase for exams.  The student should also take a pencil so that he or she can erase anything he or she writes.  Students may also want to take a stop watch in order to keep track of time.  

When a student has to write an examination paper, the examination paper is very similar to a research paper or report.  However, instead of being formally named a research or term paper, the examination paper is given the name of its purpose: to assess the level of understanding that a student has come by during the course.  

An examination paper is also different from a term paper or a research paper because students are often given just one topic about which to write for the examination paper.  Students also may not be able to perform research on the topic.  In most cases, examination papers must be completed in class using only the student's recollection of information that they learned.  However, term papers and research papers are completed over a long period of time and turned into the professor; they are not written in class or researched.

Viewpoint of Author #3

Most students expect to have a mid-term exam in their college or graduate courses.  Mid-term exams force students to assimilate and internalize the knowledge that they have been presented with through the middle of the course.  That provides students with a strong foundation on which to approach the remainder of the course material (which will often be more complex).  A mid-term exam is different from a final exam only in that it is typically worth less in the scheme of the course grade.  Otherwise, mid-terms and finals are the same: both require the student to demonstrate that they have learned and synthesized the information that has been presented in the course up to a certain point.

Though some professors give mid-term exams that are multiple choice or short answer tests, many professors prefer essay exams.  This is because an essay requires a learner to not simply regurgitate facts, but to demonstrate that he or she can apply what he or she has learned in practical and creative ways.  Even if a professor presents an exam that includes some multiple choice or short answer questions, it is likely that the exam will feature at least one full-length article.  Therefore, students must be prepared to write in their exams, and to write under the pressure of limited time.  

The best way to prepare for mid-term exams that will require writing is to (1) become intimately familiar with the information presented in the course and (2) to practice.  The first component requires the student to study extensively and intensively over the course of several weeks in order to become familiar with the course material.  Once a student has done this, he or she should begin practicing timed writing using topics or questions that may be possible on the exam.  Of course the student has no way of knowing what the exact exam questions will be; however, a student can often anticipate the general areas of knowledge that such questions will test by looking over his or her notes and noting areas that the teacher particularly emphasized.  Teachers often decide to test their students on the concepts they feel are most important; therefore, a good way to anticipate what exam questions may be is to focus attention on the areas the teacher most emphasized in class lectures.  Students should compile a list of all the possible topics an essay question might touch on, and then practice writing essays in these general areas.

To practice timed writing, students need to know how much of their exam will be devoted to essays and how long the student has to take the exam.  Professors are typically very forthcoming with this information.  Once a student knows the exact time he will have for each question, he can practice writing within that time restriction.  For instance, if a mid-term exam is scheduled to last an hour and a half and consists of three essay questions, the learner will have 30 minutes to answer each question.  Therefore, he or she should practice writing 30-minute essays on questions he or she generates from the list of possible topics.  To budget time for a timed exam, a student should devote several minutes to planning and outlining, the majority of the time to writing the draft, and a few minutes at the end to proofread.

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