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Writing Essay Exams

Writing essay exams can be challenging, especially if they’re timed.

The following resources provide some information about how to approach this task successfully. They all emphasize the importance of:

  • preparing effectively by reading and reviewing the course material beforehand,
  • understanding the exam question–what you’re being asked to address,
  • looking for clues in the exam prompt to help you organize your response,
  • providing appropriate evidence and examples to support your claims, and
  • leaving yourself time to proofread before turning in your exam.   

Some general tips for writing essay exams are available on the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s “Essay Exams” page and on Indiana University’s “Taking an Essay Exam” page.

Common structures you can use to organize an essay exam are described on the Purdue OWL’s web page.

Some essay exam advice with examples from a Sociology course is offered on Rice University’s web page.