Different kinds of exam
The most common kind of exam is one where you are given a list of about
ten questions, and you have to write answers to three of them, in three
hours. Basically this is like writing three short essays in three hours.
Usually, you won't have seen the questions beforehand, and you can't
take anything into the exam with you.
But there are lots of other kinds of exam. Here are some other common
kinds, and some tips for dealing with them.
- Seen Paper
In a seen paper, you are given the questions in advance, usually two
to three weeks in advance. Because you have more time to think about
your answers to a seen paper, the examiners are interested in how well
you organise your answers into arguments. A seen paper is more about
showing understanding than showing how much you remember - it's more
like writing ordinary essays.
- Open Book Exam
In an open-book exam you can take material into the exam with you.
This can range from one specified textbook to anything you want. Check
carefully with your tutor what you can and can't bring with you. And
you should still plan your answers and topics beforehand. Don't waste
time in the exam looking through the textbook to find what you need
for a topic - find it in advance.
- Take Away Question
This is like a seen paper, but with less time. You might be given
data or a case study an hour or two in advance, and have to write your
response in the exam itself. The key to doing well in a take-away question
is to relate your answer very closely to the data you are given. Use
the time you have to plan an answer which uses as much of the data as
Lots of students think that these different kinds of exam are easier
than the traditional kind. Maybe they are - maybe they are a bit less
stressful. But they all need you to plan your answers, and they all demand
that you organise your answers into arguments.