How to Prepare for an Essay Exam

Writing an essay is always a difficult feat. Especially when, like me, you took sciences because English isn’t your strong point. However, I have come to find that essay writing can be just as formulaic as quadratic equations. Before even attempting to write an essay there are a couple of first steps that need to be achieved.

1 Know you’re stuff.
There’s a reason they give you a syllabus and you spend all your time in lessons / lectures. The actual stuff on the course is important. You need to know as much of the course as you can and you need to be able to link it all together. A handy little tip for achieving this is to learn an overview of the course in a spider diagram so you can relate topics to others. Then learn the “nitty gritty” of the course.

2 Gather samples.
After learning all you can possibly squeeze into your overworked head you need to begin to gather sample past papers to practice. Its hard to make yourself practice if its something you’re not great at but those are the things you need to practice most and here’s a little formula to help you though it.

When opening the past paper first READ the question / essay title. Don’t skim read it. Actually take the time to understand what the paper actually wants you to write an essay about. A good practice is to highlight the key words in the question. It helps you to focus on what is really important. Then once fully understanding the question it is always good to make a quick spider diagram to show all the areas of the course related to the key points in the question / essay title. This diagram should be similar to the one that you used for revision reasonably brief so not much time is taken. Your final preparation before actually beginning your essay is to write a brief plan remembering that most essays use the structure of introduction, main body of work on subject and a conclusion which isn’t just a summary of the points previously made and must include new material as well. Choose and arrange which order you will be giving the information on different areas for example in a history essays you may want to work chronologically or science, for example enzymes, you may want to start with formation, structure and then function.

This is the main part of the work. Practice writing the essays. You must complete as many practice essays as you can to allow yourself to feel comfortable with the task and give you confidence in the exam. Also marking your completed essays is essential otherwise how would you know if you are doing them right. It is better if you have a friend studying the same course as you to get them to mark it for you. Ask them to be really honest and when they give you the mark take off 2 or 3 marks to be on the safe side. This should be a fairly accurate representation of what you should be achieving.

Before you’re main exam, relax, be confident and know that you can achieve your goal because you have already done it before in practice papers. Good luck.