Most students expect to have a mid-term exam in their college or graduate courses. Mid-term exams are common because they force students to assimilate and internalize the knowledge they have been presented with through the middle of the course, thereby providing them with a strong foundation from 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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