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Different Types of Exam

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Essay Exams

Most examinations in Humanities subjects require students to write essays in answer to a series of questions. The basic essay-writing rules apply (clear argument, good essay structure, accurate grammar, spelling and punctuation etc.), but with time constraints! This means that writing essays under exam conditions is a particular skill; but one that is easy to acquire.

Open Book or Take Home Exams

In an open book exam you are allowed to refer to certain materials whilst completing the exam. The exam may be taken at home or completed in the classroom. Sometimes you will see the question(s) in advance, sometimes not.

The assessment is therefore focussed on your understanding of a subject, rather than your powers of recall and memorisation.

It is important to remember that preparation is still very important for an open book exam: your time will be limited, so you should ensure that your notes are well organised and up-to-date. You might want to prepare brief and concise notes on the ideas and concepts being tested.

Multiple Choice Tests

Multiple Choice Tests (MCTs) ior Multiple Choice Questionnaires (MCQs) may be done on paper or online.

If the test will be done on paper, ALWAYS take a couple of sharp pencils, a rubber/eraser and a black pen into the exam with you: paper-based MCTs are often marked by automatic mark readers, and if your answer sheet is messy with scribbles and crossings out, the scanning equipment will not be able to read your answers. The result - you will lose marks.

Multiple choice questions usually involve a phrase or stem followed by three to five options, from which you must select the correct answer.

Here are some guidelines to help you tackle multiple choice tests:

  • Read the rubric very carefully before starting to answer. The paper may be divided into sections: if so, work out how long you should allocate to answering each section. Note whether you must use pen or pencil.
  • Circle or underline important words in the item. This will help you focus on the information most needed to identify the correct answer choice.
  • Read ALL the answer choices before selecting one. It is just as likely for the last answer choice to be correct as the first.
  • Cross out answer choices you are certain are not correct. This will help you narrow down the correct answer choice.
  • Look for two answer choices that are opposites. One of these two answer choices is likely to be correct.
  • Look for hints about the correct answer choice in other items on the test. The correct answer choice may be part of another item on the test.
  • Look for answer choices that contain language used by your teacher or found in your textbooks. An answer choice that contains such language is usually correct.
  • Do not change your initial answer unless you are sure another answer choice is correct. More often than not, your first choice is correct.
  • Choose "all of the above" if you are certain all other answer choices in the item are correct. Do not choose "all of the above" if even just one of the other answer choices is not correct.
  • Choose "none of the above" if you are certain all other answer choices in the item are incorrect. Do not choose "none of the above" if even just one of the other answer choices is correct.
  • Check whether you will be penalised for incorrect answers — sometimes there's nothing to lose by guessing, but if you'll be penalised for an incorrect answer then it's safest to leave a blank!

Material adapted from www.how-to-study.com

Oral Exams

If you are studying a foreign language, you are likely to encounter an oral examination. The oral exam tests your knowledge (often of a foreign language), as well as your presentation skills. The exam could follow a list of questions in a prepared format, or it could be a more informal and open discussion.

Before preparing for an oral exam you need to be clear about the format it will take and whether you will need to submit any supporting written work at the same time. It's likely that there will be more than one examiner present in the room, and your performance may well be recorded. Practise answering questions with your classmates and practice in a similar setting to the exam room.