The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Workshop teaches finer points of writing essays

By Aaron Coleman/reporter

As finals approach, TR students learned to prepare for essay exams in the one-hour How to Prepare for Essay Exams workshop Nov. 9.

Mary French, TR associate professor of English, presented strategies to help students achieve better results on essay exams.

French said three main points will help students excel in essay form test taking: knowing the purpose of the exam, studying for an essay exam and taking the exam.

Students should know why teachers assign essay exams — French said teachers don’t give them to torture their students, rather they want them to integrate the knowledge

they learned.

“They are a useful tool for finding out all kinds of information” like how many facts and dates students remember, French said.

“If you have a bunch of knowledge or facts, but you can’t do anything with them, they’re not effective tools for you,” she said. “So what teachers want you to be able to do is identify and sort through information for what’s important.”

French said understanding the material and putting it in their words will help ease the anxiety of taking an essay exam.

Preparation is key — students should attend lectures, take proper notes and form study groups, French said.

“The most successful essay exam takers are prepared for anything reasonable,” she said.

French also said students should make mock exams anticipating potential questions that might be on the exam. She said students should practice writing and organizing their answers once they prepare the mock exams.

Students should have a plan as they approach an essay exam like not memorizing facts aimlessly and finding out what they do and don’t need to know.

She said it is important for students to communicate with instructors to see what they look for in answers.

Students should practice writing and organizing their ideas before taking an essay exam.

French said organizing ideas helps students remember what they studied. She said experts call it classified thinking.

The last part of the workshop illustrated five steps — read the exam questions carefully, analyze what’s being asked, include key terms, plan answers and then write the answers.

A few students at the workshop said they throw out a lot of information in the beginning without having a clear agenda to what their essay is about.

“I like the idea of organizing and turning the questions into statements and not telling everything at one time, finding some kind of order in your essays,” TR student Jackie Wilkerson said.

French said it is important to be specific and use key terms to prove, synthesize, argue and support the answer when writing an essay exam.

Planning the answers when writing an essay exam means writing down several important ideas to help focus for answers that take a paragraph or more to answer.

“I want to implement having an agenda and task so I can stay focused on the topic,” TR student Bianca Rodriguez said.

French said this was her second year of delivering this type of workshop.

“Students tend to panic when they take this type of exam,” she said.

French said it is all about learning to write for the reader because if they can’t make sense of the information, it doesn’t matter how much a student studied.


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