Essay exams are designed to test your ability to synthesise information and to organise your thoughts on paper. The following points are designed to help you prepare for essay style examinations.
Make sure you understand the question and are clear about what you are being asked to do. Terms like: compare, trace, illustrate and evaluate all have different meanings and will require a different style of answer.
Not reading questions properly is a common mistake made in essay exams. Therefore, make sure you read each question carefully and be sure you understand exactly what the question is asking.
If the question is ambiguous, unclear or too broad, clearly write your interpretation of the question before answering.
Don't write your essay off the top of your head - the results will be disorganised and incoherent. Before you start writing, jot down your ideas and organise them into an essay plan.
If you have to write more than one essay, always indicate the number of the essay so it is clear which question you are answering.
Hint: You don't have to answer questions in the order in which they appear in the exam paper. Start with the easiest one first and do the hardest last. This helps to reduce anxiety and facilitates clear thinking.
Always answer the question in the introduction. To clearly signal your answer, use the language of the question.
Question: "How do the goals of liberal and socialist feminism differ?"
You could begin your essay with:
"The goals of liberal and socialist feminism differ in three main ways . . ."
This approach makes sure you answer the question, and makes the exam easier to mark.
It should follow basic essay structure and include:
An introduction should explicitly state your answer and the organisation of the essay. For example:
"The goals of liberal and socialist feminism differ in three main ways. The first is that . . . The second is . . . and the third main area of difference lies in the . . . This essay will argue that although these differences exist in approaches, the practices of liberal and socialist feminism have become very similar".
The Body of your essay should include:
Make sure you structure the body of the essay as you indicated in your introduction. Use transitions to tie your ideas together. This will make your essay flow. If you feel you are losing the plot, go back and reread the question and your introduction.
In your Conclusion, re-answer the question and refer briefly to the main points in the body. Show HOW you have answered the question. For example:
"In conclusion, it is clear that although liberal and socialist feminism originally held differing views on how to attain their goals, a realistic assessment now shows that their practice has become very similar. This is most clearly illustrated by . . . (give your best example and end the essay).
Markers will often give you some marks for this.