Guide to Writing in the Liberal Arts
All the techniques
and principles of designing writing assignments apply to designing essay
exam questions. A well-designed essay examination can become part of the
learning in the course.
Creating the Exam
- Remember that the
final exam is usually seen as the culmination of a course and should
therefore require students to do more than simply recall information
from the textbook and lectures.
- A final exam essay
question should ask students to synthesize and evaluate information.
- Avoid the temptation
to ask students to respond to a large number of essay questions.
- The quality of
the essay questions counts far more than the quantity.
- Asking students
to respond to three out of five short questions in an hour is unrealistic.
for the Exam
- Discuss the exam
during the class preceding the examination.
- Give the students
sample essay questions and discuss with them how they should go about
writing their answers.
- Consider allowing
the use of books, class notes, and course logs during the examination.
- If an examination
question calls for genuine synthesis of learning, there is nothing to
lose and everything to gain in giving students time to think about and
frame their ideas.
Writing Directions for the Exam
- Directions should
include the audience for whom students are writing as well as the context
for the writing.
- Directions should
also include information on how the essay will be evaluated, what length
the essay is expected to be, and any special instructions regarding
- Students can be
expected to answer one good question involving synthesis in about an
- Well-designed essay
examinations should examine far more than factual recall, and do more
than test student knowledge of factual material.
Help students understand that the essay exam is a study strategy!
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