Why do professors give essay and blue book tests and exams and what are they looking for?


There are different kinds of essay tests that are given for different purposes:

Short Answer for:

Identification -- This type of question:

A good way to prepare for this type of question is by using drill or "flash" cards.

Long Answer for:

Discussion -- This type of question:


Essay test questions have their own language, and knowing that language can help you to understand what the question is asking and wants.

Long-Term Preparation For Essay Tests

Preparing to take essay tests or exams starts as a long-term process and begins when the course begins, because being ready to write an essay test is a building process that takes time. Using three tools can help you in this process.

Syllabus -- Not only does the syllabus tell you when the essay test will be, but it also tells you the likely topics that precede the test and therefore, what is likely to be on the test.

Summarizing Your Notes -- Summarize your notes on a regular basis, daily or weekly. At the bottom of each page of notes or on a separate piece of paper, summarize what the notes are about. This helps you to focus, get the main points of your notes, and establish a way of finding specific notes when you need to.

Summarizing your notes also helps you to "handle" and organize your information to understand and learn it. Summarizing is also an important preliminary effort to later making a study guide.

Drill Cards/Flash Cards -- Drill cards are an excellent way to learn terms, concepts, and facts.

Short-Term Preparation For Essay Tests

Short term preparation should begin two to three weeks before the test.


The day of the essay test get off to a good start:

Rules of Thumb About Taking Essay Tests