PRR 320: Tips for Writing Short Answer Essay Exams

(Note: During the past two times this course was offered, I was fortunate enough to have the assistance of two undergraduate interns from the English department. They were required to do an internship just like all the PRR majors. For their internships, they were required to work with an MSU faculty member and observe how the faculty member used and managed writing assignments. They worked with faculty in departments all over campus. They did many things in PRR 320. One of their major contributions was the preparation of a list of tips for how to write answers to the types of questions that I ask on my exams. Many thanks for Samantha Strait and Shelley McPhee for preparing these useful tips. They are in their own words. I have not altered anything).

Read the questions CAREFULLY! Ask yourself, what are they specifically asking? Overall, give a specific, clear, to the point explanation.

How to do that:

  1. Get right to the point. Don't rewrite the question!
  2. Answer in specific terms, not in general. A good way to do this is to use examples: from the readings, the class, or the real world. Being able to apply the material and theories of the course to the real world in a goal in this course.
  3. When using examples, make sure that it is clear why you are using that particular example to answer the question.
  4. When making general statements, such as "with proper information, parks can be greatly improved," be sure to follow them up with answers to questions such as who, what, why and how.
  5. Avoid making all encompassing statements, such as using the words "all," "every," "no one," etc. unless they are true.
  6. Be prepared to defend every statement you make with recognized facts. For example, if you make a statement, follow it up with a quote from the text or other recognized authority or a specific example.