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University Life Café

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Tips for Short Answer Exams

By Natalie Umberger

A teacher's primary purpose in giving a short-answer test is to test whether you have a foundation of knowing the material, usually factual.

Prepare for the test

  • Develop summary sheets of the course material information.
  • Focus on key words, events, vocabulary, concepts.
  • Organize and categorize the material, then review.

When taking the test

  • Respond directly to the question or directive. Focus on keywords and ideas called for and eliminate those that do not directly address the information requested in the test item.
  • Respond and write concise answers. Connect key facts into short sentences according to the test instructions.
  • If you can think of several answers let the instructor know. The instructor may give you a clue to the correct answer he/she's looking for.
  • A guess made with common sense could get you more test points than if you leave an answer blank.
  • Resource:


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Tips for Short Answer Exams (pdf)