Purposes for Asking Essay Questions
To ask the student to
By Type of Reasoning that is Promoted
To ask the student to
Characteristics of Effective In-Class Exam Questions
Specific Topic: Vague questions promote waffling and keep students from doing their best.
Topic Appropriate for Task: Demands of question should fit time allocation and type of response required.
Succint Questions: Better that students use time writing answers than deciphering questions.
New Information Nested in Old: New information introduced for the exam can be more effectively manipulated if the methodology being called upon is familiar.
Precise Language: Pay attention to the specific types of writing required of students.
Familiar Language: Introduce terminology prior to the exam.
Checklist for Designing and Evaluating Essay Exams
Key Words in Essay Exams
Condensed from Writers, Inc.: A Guide to Writing, Thinking & Learning.
Analyze: to break down or put together aspects of a whole in order to determine its nature.
Apply: to put information to a special purpose.
Classify: to place similar persons or things together in a group.
Compare: to bring out points of similarity and difference, with emphasis on similarities.
Contrast: to stress differences.
Criticize: to point out the good points and the bad points of a situation or idea.
Define: to give a clear, concise identification of the class to which a term belongs and how it differs from other things in that class.
Describe: to recount or create a word picture in sequence or story form.
Diagram: to organize in a pictorial way flow chart, a map, or some other graphic.
Discuss: to examine and talk about an issue from all sides.
Enumerate: to write in list or outline form a set of related facts, ideas, or issues.
Evaluate: to make a statement of negative and/or positive worth and to back the statement with evidence.
Explain: to bring out into the open, to make clear, and to clarify.
Illustrate: to show by means of a picture, a diagram, or some other graphic aid, or to call forth specific examples or instances which create a verbal picture of a law, rule, or principle.
Interpret: to explain, translate, or show a specific application of a given fact or principle that is beyond previously cited examples or instances.
Justify: to tell, in a largely positive form, why a position or point of view is proper.
List: a formal numbering or sequencing.
Outline: to organize a set of facts or ideas in terms of main points and sub points.
Predict: to state what is likely to occur based upon the best current information or inference.
Prove: to give logical evidence as a base for clear, forthright argumentation.
Relate: to show how two or more things are connected because of similar characteristics or reasons.
Review: to examine or to summarize in chronological or in decreasing order of importance key characteristics of an overall body of facts, principles, or ideas.
State: to present a concise statement of a position, fact, or point of view.
Summarize: to present the main points of an issue in condensed form.
Synthesize: to put together parts to form a whole (possibly more complex than the sum of the parts).
Trace: to present in step-by-step sequence a series of facts which are somehow related either in terms of time, order of importance, or cause and effect.