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Exam Prep 101: Strategies for Different Types of College Assessment

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For many, college is their last academic experience before joining the workforce. Getting good grades can help graduates land better jobs with higher salaries. Good academic performance can also offer higher chances so you can get your foot in the door of your chosen industry.

To achieve high grades, however, students must ace their exams. Since there are many types of questions, some strategies are more effective than others. In this article, we recommend specific tactics you can try depending on the exam that you will be taking.

Preparing for exams is never easy, but knowing certain tips and tricks can help.

Types of Exams and How To Prepare for Them

There are many types of questions. The most common you’ll come across during your college days are restricted or closed exams, open-book tests, multiple-choice, essay exams, and case study questions.

Let’s review each as we share how you can adapt your preparation and come out on top.

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Restricted or Closed Exams

These exams do not allow you to bring anything aside from writing and drawing instruments. In some cases, formula sheets will be provided but this isn’t always the case. Some educational institutions will allow you to bring a formula sheet or a single page of notes. However, upon submission, you will also be required to submit the sheet.

The best way to prepare for a restricted or closed exam is through textbook practice questions. These list sample questions, mention how many marks each question is worth, and how much time a student should ideally take to answer them. Some test banks include questions from past exams, allowing you to practice for them before taking a test.


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Open-Book Exam

Unlike closed exams, open-book exams permit students to access any printed or written material during the in-person exam. However, if it is held online, they are allowed to access online material. The idea of an open-book exam is to test one’s understanding and application of a subject rather than one’s ability to recall information.

Contrary to popular belief, open-book exams require ample preparation, a good understanding of the lesson, and organization. Since open-book exams require detailed and complex answers, participants must answer with reason to support their logic.

Knowing where your notes are and having appropriate headings and page numbers can reduce the time spent searching for answers. Sticky notes and highlighters will be your best friends when segregating important notes.


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Multiple-Choice Questions

Multiple-choice questions are often presumed to be easier than short-answer or essay questions because the answers are right in front of you. But don’t be fooled. Other tests assess what you understood from your study materials or lectures, but multiple-choice questions require you to retrieve the correct answer quickly. Despite offering a range of possible answers, it can thoroughly test your knowledge.

Just like other exams, find past exam papers or test banks to practice on. This will help you understand and anticipate how questions are worded and offer a great way to assess how you respond to multiple-choice questions. Just like other exams, time each question, save time on questions that you don’t know the answers to, and attempt to answer as many questions as possible. These are the easiest ways to ace this type of test.


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Essay Exams

An essay exam requires participants to respond with multiple paragraphs that are well-written, logical, and structured. Studying for an essay exam is unheard of mainly because you only have an idea of the questions that may be asked, not the exact questions. So, understanding concepts is a better idea than studying specific subjects.

An essay exam requires students to read complex subjects, understand them, and write/explain them in words. Before taking an essay exam, make sure that you have a solid understanding of the concepts on which you’ll be tested. Additionally, practice essay writing. This will ensure your hand does not get tired of writing about multiple topics on the day of the exam. Consequently, you can also practice your handwriting so it’s legible even when writing under a time constraint.


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Case Study Exams

Case studies, deemed one of the toughest exam formats, are quite complex. They require the addition of multiple details as well as problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Students need to apply their knowledge to real-life situations. Answering a series of questions, interpreting results, and conducting an analysis could all be part of the test.

When preparing for a case study exam, ensure you read as many case studies as possible. Always read presented scenarios more than once and highlight important information. This will help you learn better. Additionally, include examples of other studies and add as much data as possible.

Are College Exams Different From High School Exams?

Expect college exams to be harder than the ones you took in high school. They will also be longer and cover more material.

You may notice that many of the tests you take in college require more critical thinking and less routine memorization. This means that you have to have a solid grasp of the concepts that have been taught and should be able to apply them to different scenarios.

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Depending on your university, course, or field of specialty, you may have to attend an in-person or an online exam. Knowing how to prepare for different types of exams can help you check their specific requirements and ace them with ease.

For example, for restricted or closed exams, practicing with test banks  could help you become familiar with the types of questions and timings. On the other hand, for an open-book exam, you should be familiar with the contents of your material. It would be helpful if you organized your materials so you know where to find what you need.

Similarly, attempting multiple-choice questions requires you to be familiar with concepts. When attempting essay exams, ensure you do enough reading so you’re familiar with what you have to write about. Meanwhile, a case study exam involves multiple, complex details and problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.

Knowing how to prepare for your exam according to the format can help you prepare better and ace most tests. Advanced preparation and research are key.

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