Essay vs. Multiple Choice: The Study Guide to Study Guides

You’re not a test taker, you’ve never been one. The time always gets you because you are somewhat of a procrastinator. Then before you know it, that giant, super-important philosophy exam is a couple days away and you have no idea how to even begin to study for it.

“There is just so much material, where would I even start?!”

If this sounds like it might be something that you would go through, you better read the rest of this before it actually happens because I have a study guide that will make studying for exams a hundred times easier. In this study guide, I break up two of the most common types of exams and provide you with the best way to study for each of them. That way you will know exactly how to begin studying so you can get right to it when the time comes.

Essay Exams

The thing about essay exams is… they require a lot of writing. Writing on specific subjects within the course. Essay exams usually come with a class study guide containing several different terms that might be on the exam and you would be required to write an essay for only a few of them. They always say something like at least five sentences, but if you want to do well, you better be prepared to write at least half of a page to a full page.

The key with essay exams, believe it or not, is not about studying your butt off trying to learn a little bit about all one hundred terms that would be on the exam. It’s all about the big picture. Looking through the list, if you see something that you talked about for five minutes throughout the entire class, forget it. You’re on a deadline, dude, blackout half of the unimportant terms. Besides, what professor would give you a term that only requires a two-sentence explanation? They’re tricky, but not silly.

You should instead become well versed with the big terms, the big terms that swallow up a lot of the other terms to help describe it. Professors love it when you are able to combine several of the terms from the study guide into one essay answer. So when you study, make connections. You should always be able to answer the “who” “what” “when” “where” and “why.” If you can do that with all the big terms on your study guide, you’re golden.

Multiple Choice

The great thing about multiple choice is…there’s always a chance of getting an answer you’re completely unsure of. Unlike essay exams, with multiple choice tests, you will need to know all of the terms that are on your study guide…but not nearly as in depth. In other words, you don’t need to know everything there is to know about the terms, just the main thing.

When you study for your multiple choice exam, try to create some sort of game with yourself to memorize terms. Everyone has different methods, just as long as you can connect the term with the right answer. Take this theatre example:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night…Eugene O’Neill
Long Day…Eww. (Because who likes long days?)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
was written by whom? …Eugene O’Neill.

You don’t need to know anything about the play like you would have if it were an essay exam, just the main point. The choices given should be able to trigger your memory when it comes time for the test.

When you know how to study for an exam, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of wasted time on studying the wrong way over the wrong things. Keep this study guide to study guides in mind when you take your next exam and you’ll notice the difference.

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Betsy Loeb

Betsy Loeb

Betsy Loeb is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in Broadcast Journalism. She lacks the ability to draw, so she loves being able to express her creativity instead through her writing. She considers herself the “coolest nerd,” spending many Friday nights indoors playing Guitar Hero and discussing Pokemon cards with her friends.