How to Answer Essay or Discussion Questions



  • Become familiar with exam direction words, and do what the directions tell you to do.
  • Predict the questions most likely to be asked and practice answering them.
  • Plan before you answer. Make notes on the back of the exam sheet or in the margin. Outline your answer.
  • Check your outline against the question to make sure that you are answering the question asked.
  • Do not write an introduction. Answer the question directly and forcefully in the first sentence.
  • Expand on the first sentence. Put down your ideas, facts, and details to support your first sentence.
  • Use transitions. Transitions are often called “directional words.” They point to the turn in the road that the reader should take.
  • Don’t save the best for last. If it is not included in your direct answer in the first few lines, your point may never become clear to the teacher.
  • End with a summarizing sentence or two.
  • Watch the time. If you think you may run out of time, just outline your remaining points to show the instructor that you did, in fact, have the necessary material in mind.


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