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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Thinking Strategies and Writing Patterns

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing an essay can be difficult enough without a clock running, and yet, this is what an essay examination often requires. Even if there’s no time limit, aside from your deadline, there can be a tension between sharing what you know and writing an essay. Both challenges can be vexing, and the solution for both involves effective planning and strategy.

When writing an exam, the temptation—whether because you are short on time or simply because you want to demonstrate your knowledge—is to cram everything you know into your response to the prompt. This is almost always a mistake.

Although a professor does want you to demonstrate your knowledge, the main goal of an exam is to test your ability to write about the subject matter of your class. A marketing professor, for example, wants to test your ability to write about marketing; a biology professor, biology; and so on. Rather than throwing everything you know at an exam question, the best strategy is to plan how to answer your prompt in a thorough and thoughtful manner.

  • Think based on reading and understanding your assignment.
  • Organize your thinking before writing to develop a writing strategy.
  • Make your answer relevant and complete.

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Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing