The 13 Tricks Of Essay & Short Answer Questions

You get to a test and it encompasses a page of short answer questions or perhaps an essay question…maybe both! Where do you begin? Well it’s simple. Here are 13 tricks of essay and short answer questions.


  1. Read the instructions more than once.

By reading the instructions a couple of times, you’re ensuring you have complete comprehension of what the question and instructions are asking of you. Therefore, you will have a better idea of how to answer accordingly.

2. Determine precisely what the question is asking. 

Reading the instructions can sometimes not be enough to fully understand what your prof is asking. It depends on your instructions. This is why it’s also important to think about what it’s asking you.

3. Underline the keywords.

By underlining the keywords, you will notice what’s important within the question and can then add some of them in your answer for a stronger response.

4. Note how many parts are involved with the question. 

How many question is within the question? Two? Three? However many there are, it’s important to note to help you plan your answers.

5. Make a quick outline before you write. 

Going into any piece of writing without a plan can lead to confusion and disorganization.  You want to make your answers as concise and to the point as possible while being easy for your professor to read. This is why an outline is a great tool. It’ll also help you to jot down all of your ideas beforehand so they aren’t littering your brain (i.e. will help you focus!)

6. Decide on a thesis (ESSAYS) 

A thesis is arguably the most important part of an essay. It helps guide your reader through your work and lets them know where your piece is going with just reading your introduction. This however, also makes it incredibly important to get right. Some professors won’t even finish reading the essay if the thesis isn’t on par to what they were looking for. Therefore, it’s a great idea to spend a few moments of your time preparing and arranging the best possible thesis you can.

7. When you start answering, get to the point.

Remember when I said that professors like it when you’re direct with the subject? Well it’s true. They’re looking to see if you know the material and terms not if you can write in a descriptive, flowery tone. Instead of putting it off, just answer. It makes their marking easier and for that, they might just be kinder if you make a mistake.

8.  Answer the question.

It’s simple but important. Don’t get caught up in a bunch of information that’s swirling around in your head that you forget to actually answer their question.

9. Write legibly. 

Nothing is worse than trying to read someone’s messy handwriting. Going back to the notion of trying to make things easier for your professors, this definitely contributes to easier marking. They won’t want to spend five minutes trying to decipher a word. Now, I’m not saying to have PERFECT writing but having readable writing is important (maybe not for you doctors though…)

10. Be brief

Don’t drag the subject on with useless information. Be brief while still answering the question to its full potential.

11. Balance arguments with examples.

Every piece of writing needs to be justified with examples or evidence. This helps to further back up your answer (the argument) and provide more detail into what you know about the subject. Essentially, you’re proving to your professor that you know the material and have the evidence to support that you know it.

12. Write a strong concluding paragraph and statement. 

I remember when I was younger and I’d finish my writing pieces with a simple, ‘the end’. If only that could be how it’s done now.

Professors are looking for a strong piece overall and if you have a great piece but conclude it with something as juvenile like ‘the end’ or ‘that is why […] is […]’ then it goes from being a strong piece worthy of an A to a C/C+. Remember, your conclusion is the last piece of writing your professor is going to see. You want to make it memorable and strong.

13. Proof read and revise neatly.

Nothing is worse than getting back an essay or test and have loads of little grammatical mistakes. Not only does it look bad but it can also lower your mark. Take the last couple of minutes you have and go through it well. You might still miss a couple of tiny mistakes but for every mistake you don’t catch, there are 5 more that you will.

There you have it! As long as you remember these 13 tricks for essay and short answer questions you should have no problem doing well on your next test. Tomorrow I will be posting a ‘How to Approach Multiple Choice’ so make sure you come back and get some more helpful tips to help you get the success you want.























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