Essay Test vs Objective Test

Essay Test vs Objective Test

An essay item is one in which the examinee relies upon his memory and past associations to answer the questions in a few words only. Since such items can be answered in whatever manner one likes and these items are also known as free answer items.

Essay items are most appropriate for measuring higher mental processes which involve the process of synthesis, analysis, evaluation, organization and criticism of the events of the past. Essay tests are thus suitable for measuring traits like critical thinking, originality and the ability to integrate synthesis or analyze different events.

Types of essay items

Essay items are of two types

  • Short answer types
  • Long answer type / Extended answer essay type

A short answer essay item is one where the examinee supplies the answer In one or two lines and is usually concerned with one central concept.

A long answer essay item is one where the examinee’s answer comprises several sentences. Such an item is usually concerned with more than one central concept.

Suggestions for Writing Good Essay Items

1 – An essay item must contain explicitly defined problems usually essay items are intended to measure the higher mental process as such its essential that they contain problems in clear cut and explicit terms so that every examinee interprets them in more or less the same way. Therefore, essay item is set to be not valid if its interpretation varies among examinees

2 – It must contain such problems whose answers are not very wide. In case a student is asked to answer a problem with a larger content area. He may start writing whatever he knows without making any discrimination in such a situation he may not write about the facts or information needed by the item, thus lowering the validity of the essay item.

3 – Essay items must have clear cut directions or instructions for the examinees the instruction should indicate the total time to be spent on any particular test item. What type of information is required and the likely weight age to be given to each item so that the examinee may pick up the relative importance of the essay questions and accordingly adjust the length of the answer.

4 – Sufficient time should be allowed in the construction of essay items such items measure the higher mental processes and in order that they actually measure what they intend to measure. It is essential that essay items are carefully worded and ordered so that all the items can be interrupted in the same way.

Difference between Essay tests and Objective Tests

1 – In essay items the examinee writes the answer in her/his own words whereas the in objective type of tests the examinee selects the correct answer from the among several given alternatives.

2 – Thinking and writing are important in essay tests whereas reading and thinking are important in objective type tests. In essay tests the examinee answers the questions in several lines. S/he critically thinks over the problems posed by the questions and arranges the idea in sequence and expresses them in writing. In objective type the examinee doesn’t have to write in many cases. He is simply asked to put a tick/mark. However, in order to make a correct choice he is required to read both the stem as well as the alternative answers very carefully and then critically think and decide.

3 – It is difficult to score objectivity and accurately in essay tests whereas in objective tests can be easily scored objectively and accurately.

4 – Essay tests are difficult to evaluate objectively and partially because the answers are not fixed like the answers of objective items because of the variability in the scorer judgment regarding the contents of the answers in the objective types of tests whether of the selection or supply type scoring can be done accurately because the answers are fixed in them. The scoring will also be objective because when the answers are fixed there will obviously be complete interpersonal agreement among the students.

5 – In objective type tests the quality of the item is dependent upon the skill of the test constructor but in essay test the quality of the item is dependent upon the scorer’s skill. Writing item for an objective type test is a relatively difficult task. Only a skilled test constructor can write good objective items. The quality of the test items are bound to suffer. If the test constructor lacks skill in writing items as well as limited knowledge regarding the subject matter items in essay tests are easy to construct. A test constructor is even with a minimum knowledge of writing items can prepare relatively good essay items.

6 – Objective test items no matter how well they are constructed permit and encourage guessing by the examinee whereas essay test items no matter how well they are constructed permit and encourage bluffing by examinees. In objective type test items the probability of guessing can’t be fully nullified. The effect of the guessing is the inflation of the actual score obtained on the test. Guessing is the most obvious when the length of the test is short and the two alternative objectives form is used or when difficult alternative responses are included in multiple choice items or matching items and the length of the test is short.

7 – Assignment of numerical scores in essay test items is entirely in the hands of the scorer whereas assignment of numerical scores in objective type test items is entirely determined by the scoring key of the manual.

Common Points between Essay Tests and Objective Tests

Despite of all these differences following are the common points or main similarities that lie in essay test or objective test.

  • An element of subjectivity is involved in both objective type as well as essay tests. In objective tests subjectivity is involved in writing the test items in selecting particular criterion for validation of the test. In essay tests subjectivity is involved in writing and selecting the items. The most obvious effect of the subjectivity in essay test is seen in scoring of the essay items.
  • In both essay tests as well as objective type tests, emphasize is placed upon the objectivity in the interpretation of the test scores. By objectivity is meant the score must mean nearly the same to all observers or graders who have assigned it. If this is not so it means that the scoring lacks objectivity thus reducing the usefulness of the score.
  • Any educational achievement such as the ability to spell the English words, proficiency in grammar, and performance in history, geography, and educational psychology can be measured through both the essay test and objective type tests.

When the intention is to measure critical thinking, originality and the organizational ability essay tests are preferred but when the intention is to measure the piecemeal knowledge in any subject, objective type tests are preferred.

However, this line of demarcation is fast vanishing now because objective items have been used effectively for measuring achievement representing, critical thinking and originality of the examinees. Likewise, essay items particularly short answer essay items have been successfully used in measuring achievement representing piecemeal knowledge of any subject.

  • Tags: Essay Test , Essay Test vs Objective Test , Essay Writing , Objective Test , Subjective Test , Writing Good Essay

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Multiple Choice and Other Objective Tests

  • Essay Tests
  • Take-Home and Open-Book Tests
  • Plan Ahead: Studying for Finals


General Statements about Objective Tests

  • Objective tests require recognition and recall of subject matter.
  • The forms vary: questions of fact, sentence completion, true-false, analogy, multiple-choice, and matching.
  • They tend to cover more material than essay tests.
  • They have one, and only one, correct answer to each question.
  • They may require strict preparation like memorization.

Before Answering

  • Listen carefully to oral directions.
  • Notice if there is a penalty for guessing.
  • Glance quickly through the entire test.
  • Observe point values of different sections.
  • Budget your time.
  • Read the instructions and follow them.
  • Write your name on each page of the test.

While Answering

  • Read all directions carefully.
  • Read each question carefully.
  • If allowed to, underline key words.
  • Answer the easy questions first.
  • Skip questions that stump you. Mark them to come back later.
  • If you have time at the end, go back to the questions you marked.
  • Do not go back over every question. Reread only the ones that you were unsure of.
  • Do not second-guess yourself. Change an answer only if you are absolutely sure your first answer was wrong. The odds are in your favor that your first answer was right.
  • Make sure you have answered all the questions.
  • If you have no idea of the answer, guess!


Prepare thoroughly for all of your exams. There is no real substitute for studying. Start studying for your final exam the first day of class.

Use a variety of study strategies. Know your preferred learning style and take advantage of it!

Pay no attention to students who finish early. Do not automatically presume that students who finish early did well on the test (they often leave early because they didn't study enough!)

Plan on being the last one to leave. That way you can relax and make the most of your time.

Ignore what other students are saying before and after the exam.

Consider all alternatives in a multiple choice question before making your decision.

Always guess if there is no penalty for guessing.

Do not guess if there is a penalty for guessing and you have no basis on which to make a good choice.

Eliminate options which are known to be incorrect and choose from the remaining options.

Look for information in test items that will help you answer other questions.

Pay close attention to key words on True-False Tests.

a. Closed words (such as never , only , always , all , none , and most ) are often (but not always) indicators of a false statement because they restrict possibilities.

b. Open words (such as usually , frequently , mostly , may , and generally ) are often (but not always) found in true statements.


To help you score as high as possible on all exams we have devised a plan of attack called SCORER. Each letter in the word stands for an important rule in test-taking. SCORER is based on the experience of many teachers and students and on research findings -- it might work for you!

S - Schedule your time.

C - Clue words help.

O - Omit the difficult questions.

R - Read carefully.

E - Estimate your answers.

R - Review your work.

S - The first letter in SCORER reminds you to SCHEDULE your time.

Consider the exam as a whole. How long is it? How many sections? How many questions? Are there especially easy or very difficult sections or questions? Estimate roughly the time needed for each section. Schedule your time.

For example, in a 50-minute test containing 20 questions you can spend about 50 divided by 20 or 21 minutes on each question. If you start at 9 AM you should be one-third finished by 9:17 halfway by 9:25 working on question 16 by 9:40. If you lag much behind these times you will run out of time before you finish the test.

C - The second letter in SCORER reminds you to watch for CLUE WORDS.

Almost every question has built-in clues to what is wanted. In a true-false test the Instructor must make up questions that are absolutely true or absolutely false. If he asks: "An unhappy childhood produces a neurotic adult. (True or False?)," he has a question he cannot grade. The more you know about psychology the more difficult this question is to answer. It is sometimes true, sometimes not: true for some people, false for others.

"An unhappy childhood always produces a neurotic adult." Vs. "An unhappy childhood never produces a neurotic adult." Vs. "An unhappy childhood sometimes produces a neurotic adult."

The first two are clearly false and the last is clearly true. The words always, never, and sometimes are called clue words.

"All men are taller than all women." "Some men are taller than women." "Men are never taller than women." "Men are usually taller than women." "Men are sometimes taller than women."

Answers: False, True, False, True, True

The clue words are all, some, never, usually, sometimes. These words are a key to answering objective test questions.

Some clue words such as all, every, none, exactly, always, and never indicate that the statement is absolutely true. Exceptions are not allowed. If they appear in a statement it must be true in every case to be true at all. For example:

"All squares have four equal sides." (That's a definition.)

"Every insect has six legs." (if it has more or less than six it is not an insect.)

"Politicians are invariably dishonest." (That means there has never been an honest politician. We're not certain, but we think this is false.)

Other clue words such as many, most, some, usually, few, or often are qualifiers. They indicate a limited range of truth.

"Some apples are green." (Sure, some apples are also yellow, pink, and even red.)

All clue words are red lights for test takers. When you see one, STOP and learn what it is telling you.

O - The third letter in SCORER reminds you to OMIT the DIFFICULT QUESTIONS.

A test is not the sort of semi-fatal illness you fall into; it is a battle to be planned, fought, and won. You size up the enemy, look at the terrain, check out his artillery, develop your strategy, and attack at the place you have the best chance of success. The 0 rule in SCORER says that to score high on tests you should find the easiest questions and answer them first. Omit or postpone the more difficult ones later.

The procedure for an objective exam is the following:

  • Move rapidly through the test.
  • When you find an easy question or one you are certain of, answer it.
  • Omit the difficult ones on this first pass.
  • When you skip a question, make a mark in the margin. (Do not use a red pencil or pen. Your marks could get confused with the grader's marks).
  • Keep moving. Never erase. Don't dawdle. Jot brief notes in the margin for later use if you need to.
  • When you have finished the easy ones return to those with marks, and try again.
  • Mark again those answers you are still not sure of.
  • In your review (that's the last R on SCORER) you will go over all the questions if time permits.

R - The fourth letter of SCORER reminds you to READ CAREFULLY.

  • As we have already explained, it is very important that you read the directions carefully before you begin. It is also very important that you read each question completely and with care.
  • Read all of the questions. Many students, because they are careless or rushed for time, read only part of the question and answer it on the basis of that part. For example, consider the statement "Supreme Court decisions are very effective in influencing attitudes." If you disagree with some Supreme Court decisions you may mark it false after reading the first six words. The political scientist knows it is true. He is not asking you whether the Court is doing a good job, only what the effects of its decisions are.
  • Read the question as it is. Be careful to interpret the question as the instructor intended. Don't let your bias or expectation lure you into a false reading. For example, the statement "Once an American, always an American." may be marked true by a super-patriot who believes it should be true. Legally, it is not true.
  • Read it logically. If the statement has several parts, all parts must be true if the statement is to be true. The statement, "George Washington was elected president because he was a famous film star." is false. (Not in 1776. Today it might be possible.) The statement, "Chlorine gas is a greenish, poisonous, foul-smelling, very rare gas used in water purification," is false. (It is not rare.)

E - The E in SCORER reminds you to ESTIMATE.

Your instructor may never admit it, but you can go a long way on an objective exam by guessing.

On most true-false or multiple-choice tests, your final score is simply the number you answer correctly. Wrong answers are ignored. There is not a penalty for guessing. On some tests you may have points subtracted from your score for wrong answers. Be certain you know how the test will be scored. If the test directions do not make it perfectly clear, ask your instructor.

  • If there is no penalty for guessing, be certain you answer every question even if you must guess.
  • If you have plenty of time, proceed as we have already outlined: omit or postpone the difficult questions, answer the easy ones first, return to the difficult ones later. Guess on any you do not know. (But be careful. Your instructor may be upset if you start flipping a dime and shouting "Heads" and "Tails" during the exam.)
  • If the test is a long one and you are pressed for time, answer the easy ones, guess at the difficult ones.
  • If guessing is penalized, then do not guess on true-false questions and make an educated guess on multiple-choice questions only if you can narrow the possibilities down to two. Guess at completion or fill-in questions if you have any idea of what the answer is. Part of a correct answer may earn some credit.
  • "Guesstimating" is an important part of test-taking.

R - The last letter in SCORER is a reminder to REVIEW your work.

  • Use every minute that is available to you. Anyone who leaves the exam room early is either very foolish or super-confident. Review everything you have done.
  • Return to the double-checked, difficult questions. Reread them. Look for clue words. Look for new hints. Then go to the checked questions and finally to the unmarked ones if there is still time.
  • Don't be too eager to change answers. Change only if you have a good reason for changing.
  • Be certain you have considered all questions.

It is most important to build up your knowledge and understanding of the subject through systematic study, reading, and class work. SCORER is designed to help you do you best with what you know.


More on Multiple Choice Tests

Following are additional specific strategies that can be used when taking multiple choice tests:

There are three major reasons that multiple-choice questions appear on many college tests.

  • They can be used to test all aspects of students, knowledge and their ability to reason with information that they have learned.
  • If students have difficulty expressing their thoughts in writing, poor writing ability will not lower their grades on multiple-choice tests.
  • When answers are recorded on answer sheet, multiple choice tests are easy to grade.

Because of these advantages, you will answer many multiple choice questions on the tests you take during your college career.

Stems, Options, and Distractors

Multiple-choice questions are usually either incomplete statements followed by possible ways the statements may be completed or they are questions followed by possible answers. The following question is an incomplete statement followed by possible ways the statement may be completed.

 In this country, the ultimate legal responsibility for the education of children belongs to:

a. parents. b. states. c. the federal government. d. local school boards.

The first part of a multiple-choice question is called the stem. The stem of the above example is:

" In this country, the ultimate legal responsibility for the education of children belongs to "

The choices that are given for answers are called options. These are the options in the example:

parents; states; the federal government; local school boards

Options are written so that one is the correct answer and the others are distractors. The correct answer to this question is option b; options a, c, and d are distractors. Correct answers are supposed to be selected by students who know correct answers. Other students are supposed to be distracted and select one of the other options -- one of the distractors.

  • Eliminate the distractors

The basic strategy for answering a multiple choice question is to eliminate the distractors and to select as the correct answer the option that is not a distractor. One way to locate distractors is to analyze a multiple choice question as though it is a series of true-false questions. The following questions about American history may be analyzed in this way.

Centers for early gold rushes were in the present-day states of:

a. Oklahoma and Texas. b. California and New Mexico. c. Kansas and Nebraska. d. Nevada and Colorado.

This question, like most multiple-choice questions, is actually a series of true-false questions, only one of which is true. All the options are false except d.

When you answer a multiple-choice question, indicate with an X or a check mark the options that you decide are distractors. For example:

Oklahoma and Texas. X

California and New Mexico .

Kansas and Nebraska. X

Nevada and California .

In this example, a student has decided that option a and option c are distractors. She/He will eventually cross out option b and decide that option d is correct, or she will cross out option d and decide that option b is correct. The correct answer is option d.

  • Use common sense and sound reasoning

You may sometimes be able to select the correct answer to a multiple-choice question by using common sense, sound reasoning, experience you have had, and information you know. For instance, since you have been or have known many male adolescents, you can probably use your experience to answer the following question correctly.

Which of the following is not a secondary sex characteristic of normal male adolescents?

a. Their voices deepen. b. They grow facial hair. c. Their subcutaneous fat increases. d. Their muscles develop noticeably.

Even if you do not know what a secondary sex characteristic is, you do know that options a, b, and d state facts about male adolescents. You might, therefore, conclude that option c does not state a fact about young men. Option c is the correct answer; it describes female adolescents.

Sometimes you may know information that will help you to select a correct answer. For instance, you may know that the word intrinsic refers to "that which is within." If you know the meaning of intrinsic, you should be able to answer the following question correctly.

Which of the following is an example of an intrinsic reward?

a. food b. money c. praise d. self-approval

If you know the meaning of intrinsic , you should select option d as the correct answer. Self-approval is an intrinsic reward – it comes from within a person. Food, money, and praise, on the other hand, are extrinsic rewards – they come from outside a person.

Summary for Multiple Choice Questions

When you answer a multiple-choice question:

1. Cross out the distractors and select as the correct answer the option that is not a distractor.

2. Use common sense, sound reasoning, experiences you have had, and information you know to select correct answers.

When necessary, make your best guess:

Although no specific techniques can be applied to all multiple choice tests, the following are frequently means of getting points out of questions for which you don't really know the answers.

Occasionally, testers overlook some of the faults described below. It is important to use the following techniques with care to determine if they are applicable.


The results of research on a sample drawn form the 9th grade students who have failed Algebra will:

a. have no specific significance. b. yield important data for all high schools. c. generalize for the narrow population, but may carry implications for similar populations.

The answer is c, mainly because it is the longest and most complete. Usually a test writer makes up a multiple choice test by leafing through the material to be tested. He may come upon a statement that seems to provide a question and answer, and he bases the multiple choice item on this. Test writers in a hurry write as few words as they can get away with. Therefore, they skimp when they are writing incorrect choices on a multiple choice test. The best way to determine length is to compare the number of words used in the answer. The physical length is less important. Usually the choice containing the most words is the right answer.


Which of the following are the best source of information concerning the interior structure of the earth?

a. barogram b. seismograms c. thermogram d. hygrogram

The question asks for a plural answer. ("Which of the following are....") Only b is a plural answer, so that is the correct one.

Shakespeare's reference to clocks in "Julius Caesar" is an example of an:

a. anachronism b. antiquareanisms c. poetic licence d. ignorance

Grammatical grounds eliminate option c since the question calls for an answer beginning with a vowel " example of an ...." Answer a and b begin with the same syllable, so it is probably one of these two: b is plural, and the question asks for singular answer. The best choice is a.


Often a test writer will think it smart to include among the wrong answers a distractor similar to the right answer. This is done to ensure that the student is more than just vaguely familiar with what might be the correct answer.

The functional unit of the kidney is:

a. the pelvis b. the nephron c. the neuron d. the medulla

Options b and c are very similar in spelling, so one of those is probably the answer. After this there are no clues, so that a student must use knowledge or guess. Option b is the correct answer.

The water bearing layer of an artesian formation is most likely composed of:

a. limestone b. sand c. granite d. sandstone

The work "sand" is repeated in b and d, and "stone" occurs in a and d. Answer d has both repeated elements. The best guess could be d.


Many test writers routinely include wrong answers that repeat terms of the question just to distract wild guessers.

An important commercial source of ammonia is:

a. ammonia water b. coal tar c. soft coal d. petroleum

The repetition of " ammonia " in answer a potentially eliminates that as the correct choice.

"Coal" in both b and b suggests one of these answers, and c is the correct one.

Test questions are often taken directly from the textbook. Watch for "unusual" or "catchy" statements. Watch for dates, definitions, or statements of facts.

V. ASK, before you take the test, if you are penalized for guessing. If so, don't guess. The instructor may subtract the number wrong for the number right. Then you may pay twice for every wrong answer.

VI. UNDERSTAND precisely how to indicate the answers. (Do you put your "x" by the right one or the wrong one?)

VII. WATCH your numbers. It's easy to get mixed up.

VIII. WATCH for special words.

Statements with never or always are likely to be false.

Moderate statements are often true.

An answer that is "almost, but not quite true" is still false.

Extreme statements are almost always false.

Read through each question quickly and answer the ones you are fairly sure of first. Spend little time on the questions, and skip the ones you don't know. These can be analyzed when you can come back to them. Remember that these test techniques alone will not help you do well on a test. Your knowledge of the subject matter is the main determinant of how well you will do!

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The ultimate essay test guide: achieve top grades with ease.

An essay test, a fundamental tool in academic assessment, measures a student's ability to express, argue, and structure their thoughts on a given subject through written words. This test format delves deeper into a student's critical thinking and writing skills unlike other conventional exam types.

Essay Test, Illustration of a person in front of a well prepared essay, StudySmarter Magazine

What is an Essay Test?

An essay test is a type of assessment in which a student is prompted to respond to a question or a series of questions by writing an essay.

This form of test isn’t merely about checking a student’s recall or memorisation skills , but more about gauging their ability to comprehend a subject, synthesise information, and articulate their understanding effectively.

Types of Essay Tests

Essay tests can be broadly classified into two categories: Restricted Response and Extended Response .

  • Restricted Response tests focus on limited aspects, requiring students to provide short, concise answers.
  • Extended Response tests demand more comprehensive answers, allowing students to showcase their creativity and analytical skills.

Advantages and Limitations of an Essay Test

Essay tests offer numerous benefits but also have certain limitations. The advantages of an essay test are :

  • They allow teachers to evaluate students’ abilities to organise, synthesise, and interpret information.
  • They help in developing critical thinking and writing skills among students.
  • They provide an opportunity for students to exhibit their knowledge and understanding of a subject in a broader context.

And the limitations of an essay test are :

  • They are time-consuming to both take and grade.
  • They are subject to scoring inconsistencies due to potential subjective bias.
  • They may cause the students who struggle with written expression may face difficulties, and these tests may not accurately reflect the full spectrum of a student’s knowledge or understanding.

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Understanding the Structure of an Essay Test

Essay tests involve a defined structure to ensure organised, coherent, and comprehensive expression of thoughts. Adhering to a specific structure can enhance your ability to answer essay questions effectively .

The 7 Steps of an Essay

Writing an essay test typically involves seven steps :

  • Understanding the question
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Creating an outline
  • Crafting a thesis statement
  • Writing the essay body
  • Formulating the conclusion
  • Revising and editing for clarity and conciseness

A checklist of 7 steps to prep for an essay test, including brainstorming ideas, creating an outline and writing a thesis. StudySmarter Magazine

The First Sentence in an Essay

The initial sentence of an essay, often termed a hook , plays a crucial role.

It aims to grab the reader’s attention and provoke interest in the essay topic. It should be engaging, and relevant, and set the tone for the rest of the essay .

The 5-Paragraph Essay Format

The 5-paragraph essay format is commonly used in essay tests, providing a clear and organised approach for students to articulate their ideas. In this format, the introduction and the conclusion include 1 paragraph, while the body of the essay includes 3 .

  • Introduction : The introduction sets the stage, providing a brief overview of the topic and presenting the thesis statement – the central argument or point.
  • Body : The body of the essay contains three paragraphs, each presenting a separate point that supports the thesis statement. Detailed explanations, evidence, and examples are included here to substantiate the points.
  • Conclusion : The conclusion reiterates the thesis statement and summarises the main points. It provides a final perspective on the topic, drawing the essay to a close.

Essay Test, Illustration of a person marking different areas on a paper, StudySmarter Magazine

How to Prepare for an Essay Test?

Preparing for an essay test demands a structured approach to ensure thorough understanding and effective response. Here are some strategies to make this task more manageable:

#1 Familiarise Yourself with the Terminology Used

Knowledge of key terminologies is essential. Understand the meaning of directives such as “describe”, “compare”, “contrast”, or “analyse”. Each term guides you on what is expected in your essay and helps you to answer the question accurately.

To make it easier, you can take advantage of AI technologies. While preparing for your exam, use similar essay questions as prompts and see how AI understands and evaluates the questions. If you are unfamiliar with AI, you can check out The Best Chat GPT Prompts For Essay Writing .

#2 Review and Revise Past Essays

Take advantage of past essays or essay prompts to review and revise your writing . Analyse your strengths and areas for improvement, paying attention to grammar , structure , and clarity . This process helps you refine your writing skills and identify potential pitfalls to avoid in future tests.

#3 Practice Timed Writing

Simulate test conditions by practising timed writing . Set a specific time limit for each essay question and strive to complete it within that timeframe. This exercise builds your ability to think and write quickly , improving your efficiency during the actual test.

#4 Utilise Mnemonic Techniques

To aid in memorisation and recall of key concepts or arguments, employ mnemonic techniques . These memory aids, such as acronyms, visualisation, or association techniques, can help you retain important information and retrieve it during the test. Practice using mnemonics to reinforce your understanding of critical points.

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Strategies to Pass an Essay Test

Passing an essay test goes beyond understanding the topic; it also requires strategic planning and execution . Below are key strategies that can enhance your performance in an essay test.

  • Read the exam paper thoroughly before diving into writing : read the entire exam paper thoroughly. Understand each question’s requirement and make a mental note of the points to be included in each response. This step will help in ensuring that no aspect of the question is overlooked.
  • Answer in the First Sentence and Use the Language of the Question : Begin your essay by clearly stating your answer in the first sentence. Use the language of the question to show you are directly addressing the task. This approach ensures that your main argument is understood right from the start.
  • Structure Your Essay : Adopt a logical essay structure , typically comprising an introduction, body, and conclusion. This helps in organising your thoughts, making your argument clearer, and enhancing the readability of your essay.
  • Answer in Point Form When Running Out of Time : If time is running short, present your answer in point form. This approach allows you to cover more points quickly, ensuring you don’t leave any questions unanswered.
  • Write as Legibly as Possible : Your writing should be clear and easy to read. Illegible handwriting could lead to misunderstandings and may negatively impact your grades.
  • Number Your Answers : Ensure your answers are correctly numbered. This helps in aligning your responses with the respective questions, making it easier for the examiner to assess your work, and reducing chances of confusion or error
  • Time Yourself on Each Question : Time management is crucial in an essay test. Allocate a specific amount of time to each question, taking into account the marks they carry. Ensure you leave ample time for revising and editing your responses. Practising this strategy can prevent last-minute rushes and result in a more polished essay.

About the Author Oğulcan Tezcan is a writer, translator, editor, and an accomplished engineer. Oğulcan is also a keen researcher and digital market analyst, with a particular interest in self-development, productivity, and human behaviour.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Essay Tests

How do you answer an essay question, when taking an essay test what is the first step, what type of test is an essay test, what is the first sentence in an essay, what are the six elements of an essay.

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Essay Test Preparation Tips and Strategies

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Essay test questions can be very intimidating, but they can also be very rewarding. Unlike other types of exams (i.e., multiple choice, true or false, etc.) essay tests allow you develop an answer based on your understanding or knowledge.

If you’ve studied all semester, understand the course concepts, and have reviewed prior to the test, the following strategies can help you improve your performance on essay tests and exams.

Strategies to Help You Improve Your Performance on Essay Tests and Exams

Read the directions.

Reading the directions seems so obvious. Unfortunately, it’s still one of the biggest test taking mistakes students make. Before answering an essay question, thoroughly read the instructions. Do not jump to the answer without being sure of what exactly the question is asking. In many cases, the teacher is looking for specific types of responses. Never assume you know what is being asked, or what is required, until you’ve read the entire question.

Ask for clarification

Read essay questions in their entirety before preparing an answer. If the instructions are unclear, or you simply don’t understand a question, ask the teacher for clarification. Chances are if you’re confused so is someone else. Never be scared to ask for clarification from your teacher or instructor.

Provide detail

Provide as many details and specific examples when answering an essay question as you can. Teachers are usually looking for very specific responses to see whether or not you’ve learned the material. The more relevant detail you provide, the higher grade is likely to be. However, only include correct, accurate and relevant information. Including irrelevant “filler” that doesn’t support your answer will likely lower your grade.

Budget your time

Manage your time wisely when answering essay questions so you are able answer all the questions, not just the easy or hard ones. If you finish your test before time is up, go back and review your answers and provide additional details.

We recommend answering those essay questions you’re most familiar with first and then tackling more challenging questions after. It’s also not uncommon on essay tests for some questions to be worth more than others. When budgeting your time, make sure to allocate more time to those questions that are worth the most.

Follow the instructions

When a question is only requiring facts, be sure to avoid sharing opinions. Only provide the information the instructions request. It’s important to provide an answer that matches the type of essay question being asked. You’ll find a list of common types of essay questions at the bottom of this page.

In your answers, get to the point and be very clear. It is generally best to be as concise as possible. If you provide numerous facts or details, be sure they’re related to the question. A typical essay answer should be between 200 and 800 words (2-8 paragraphs) but more isn’t necessarily better. Focus on substance over quantity.

Write clearly and legibly

Be sure your essays are legible and easy to understand. If a teacher has a difficult time reading or understanding what you’ve written, you could receive a lower score.

Get organized

Organize your thoughts before answering your essay question. We even recommend developing a short outline before preparing your answer. This strategy will help you save time and keep your essay organized. Organizing your thoughts and preparing a short outline will allow you to write more clearly and concisely.

Get to the point – Focus on substance

Only spend time answering the question and keep your essays focused. An overly long introduction and conclusion can be unnecessary. If your essay does not thoroughly answer the question and provide substance, a well developed introduction or conclusion will do you no good.

Use paragraphs to separate ideas

When developing your essay, keep main ideas and other important details separated with paragraphs. An essay response should have three parts: the introduction; the body; and the conclusion. The introduction is typically one paragraph, as is the conclusion. The body of the essay usually consists of 2 to 6 paragraphs depending on the type of essay and the information being presented.

Go back and review

If time permits, review your answers and make changes if necessary. Make sure you employed correct grammar and that your essays are well written. It’s not uncommon to make silly mistakes your first time through your essay. Reviewing your work is always a good idea.


When you are unsure of specific dates, just approximate dates. For example, if you know an event occurred sometime during the 1820’s, then just write, “in the early 1800’s.”

Common Question Types on Essay Exams

Being able to identify and becoming familiar with the most common types of essay test questions is key to improving performance on essay exams. The following are 5 of the most common question types you’ll find on essay exams.

1. Identify

Identify essay questions ask for short, concise answers and typically do not require a fully developed essay.

  • Ask yourself: “What is the idea or concept in question?”, “What are the main characteristics?”, “What does this mean?”
  • Keywords to look for: Summarize, List, Describe, Define, Enumerate, State
  • Example question: “Define what is meant by ‘separation of church and state.'”

Explain essay questions require a full-length essay with a fully developed response that provides ample supporting detail.

  • Ask yourself: “What are the main points?”, “Why is this the case?”
  • Keywords to look for: Discuss, Explain, Analyze, Illustrate
  • Example question: “Discuss the differences between the political views of democrats and republicans. Use specific examples from each party’s 2017 presidential campaign to argue which views are more in line with U.S. national interests.”

Compare essay questions require an analysis in essay form which focuses on similarities, differences, and connections between specific ideas or concepts.

  • Ask yourself: “What are the main concepts or ideas?”, “What are the similarities?”, “What are the differences?”
  • Keywords to look for: Compare, Contrast, Relate
  • Example question: “Compare the value of attending a community college to the value of attending a 4-year university. Which would you rather attend?”

Argue essay questions require you to form an opinion or take a position on an issue and defend your position against alternative positions using arguments backed by analysis and information.

  • Ask yourself: “Is this position correct?”, “Why is this issue true?”
  • Keywords to look for: Prove, Justify
  • Example question: “Argue whether robotics will replace blue collar manufacturing jobs in the next ten years.”

Assess essay questions involve assessing an issue, idea or question by describing acceptable criteria and defending a position/judgment on the issue.

  • Ask yourself: “What is the main idea/issue and what does it mean?”, “Why is the issue important?”, “What are its strengths?”, “What are the weaknesses?”
  • Keywords to look for: Evaluate, Criticize, Evaluate, Interpret
  • Example question: “With respect to U.S. national security, evaluate the benefit of constructing a wall along the southern border of the United States of America.”

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Academic Development Centre

Objective tests (short-answer and multiple choice questions), using objective tests to assess learning, introduction.

Objective tests are questions whose answers are either correct or incorrect. They tend to be better at testing 'low order' thinking skills, such as memory, basic comprehension and perhaps application (of numerical procedures for example) and are often (though not necessarily always) best used for diagnostic assessment. However, this still affords a great variety of both textual and numerical question types including, but not limited to: calculations and mathematical derivations, mcqs, fill-in-the-blanks questions and short essay (short answer) questions.

LSE (2019).

In brief, objectives tests are written tests that require the learner to select the correct answer from among one or more of options or complete statements or perform relatively simple calculations.

What can objective tests assess?

Objective tests are useful to check that learners are coming to terms with the basics of the subject in order that they have a firm foundation and knowledge. They are useful because:

  • can test a wide sample of the curriculum in a short time
  • can be marked easily; technology can assist with this
  • less reliance on language skills of the students
  • useful for diagnostic purposes: gaps and muddled ideas can be resolved.

The drawbacks are:

  • students can guess rather than know
  • the random nature of the questions does not help build mental maps and networks
  • writing good questions is not easy
  • they tend to focus on lower-order processes: recall rather than judge, explain rather than differentiate.


Short answer questions (SAQs) tend to be open-ended questions (in contrast to MCQ) and are designed to elicit a direct response from students. SAQs can be used to check knowledge and understanding, support engagement with academic literature or a particular case study and to encourage a progressive form of learning. They can be used in both formative and summative assessment. SAQs may take a range of different forms such as short descriptive or qualitative single sentence answers, diagrams or graphs with explanations, filling in missing words in a sentence, list of answers. As the name suggests, the answer is usually short. Gordon (2015, p.39)

Depending on the type of question, marking may simply involve checking against a list of correct answers. Alternatively a set of criteria may be used based:

  • factual knowledge about a topic: have the questions been answered correctly?
  • numerical answers: will marks be given on the process as well as the product answer?
  • writing style: importance of language, structure, accuracy of grammar and spelling?

How to design good questions:

  • express the questions in clear language
  • ensure there is only one correct answer per question
  • state how the question should be answered
  • direct questions are better than the sentence completion
  • for numerical questions be clear about marks for process as well as product and whether units are part of the answer
  • be prepared to accept other answers; some of which you may not have predicted.

Multiple choice questions (MCQ)

The Centre for Teaching Excellence (no date) provides useful advice for designing questions including illustrative examples. Those guidelines are paraphrased and enhanced here for convenience.

Definition: A multiple-choice question is composed of three parts: a stem [that identifies the question or problem] and a set of possible answers that contains a key [that is the best answer to the question] and a number of distractors [that are plausible but incorrect answers to the question].

Students may perceive MCQs as requiring memorisation rather than more analytical engagement with material. If the aim is to encourage a more nuanced understanding of the course content, questions should be designed that require analysis. For example, students could be presented with a case study followed by MCQs which ask them to make judgements about aspects of the brief or to consider the application of certain techniques or theories to a scenario.

The selection of the best answer can be focused on higher-order thinking and require application of course principles, analysis of a problem, or evaluation of alternatives, thus testing students’ ability to do such thinking. Designing alternatives that require a high level of discrimination can also contribute to multiple choice items that test higher-order thinking.

When planning to write questions:

General strategies

  • multiple-choice question tests are challenging and time-consuming to create; write a few questions, after a lecture when the course material is still fresh in your mind
  • instruct students to select the best answer rather than the correct answer ; by doing this, you acknowledge the fact that the distractors may have an element of truth to them
  • use familiar language; students are likely to dismiss distractors with unfamiliar terms as incorrect
  • avoid giving verbal association clues from the stem in the key. If the key uses words that are very similar to words found in the stem, students are more likely to pick it as the correct answer
  • avoid trick questions. Questions should be designed so that students who know the material can find the correct answer
  • avoid negative wording.

Designing stems

  • ask yourself if the students would be able to answer the question without looking at the options. If so, it is a good stem
  • put all relevant material in the stem
  • eliminate excessive wording and irrelevant information from the stem

Designing answers

  • limit the number of answers; between three and five is good
  • make sure there is only one best answer
  • make the distractors appealing and plausible
  • make the choices grammatically consistent with the stem
  • randomly distribute the correct response.

There are a number of packages that can analyse the results from MCQ tests for reliability and validity. Using the questions for formative purposes can generate the data needed and so pilot questions prior to their use for summative tests. In addition to asking student to give an answer we can also ask for their confidence rating - how sure they are about the answer they are giving. This not only reduces guessing, but also provides feedback to the learner about the extent of their comprehension / understanding.

Using online packages to administer the test allows instant feedback. Once a student has selected an answer they can be told if they are correct or not and be given an explanation of their mistake. Some of these packages select questions on the basis of previous results rather than randomly, which allow a check on whether the learner is gaining from the feedback provided [adaptive testing].

Diversity & inclusion

There is some evidence that males perform better than females in MCQ examinations as they are more willing to guess. Using MCQs for formative rather than summative purposes resolves this. Using short answer questions reduces reliance on language and so is more inclusive for those working in a second language.

Academic integrity

If used for summative purposes one needs to maintain the integrity of the question banks by not allowing copies out of examination room.

When used online it is important to have a large question bank to enable random generation of tests. (Click here for further guidance on academic integrity .)

When used outside of in-person exam conditions assessment may become less secure, as online working could facilitate collusion, or contract cheating, or the use of AI. Randomly generated questions (with different questions or questions in a different order) might mitigate against collusion.

Student and staff experience

Short answer.

Students: are often more familiar with the practice and feel less anxious than many other assessment methods.

Staff: short answer questions are relatively fast to mark and can be marked by different assessors, as long as the questions are set in such a way that all answers can be considered by the assessors. AI can support feedback generation.

They are also relatively easy to set.

Multiple choice questions

Students: good to enable self-assessment, particularly online e when the feedback is instant

Staff: are quick to mark, and be grouped into re-usable questions banks and efficient approach to testing large numbers of students.

Tests lower levels of learning and may encourage surface approaches to learning. Rather like mcqs, to make this approach test higher levels it is the structure of the questions that becomes more complex rather than the content of the question itself.

If short answer questions are to be used in summative assessment they tend to be used alongside longer essays and other longer forms of assessment and thus time management is crucial.

It is very important to be very clear about the type of answers that you expect because these are open-ended and students are free to answer any way they choose; short-answer questions can lead to long answers if you are not careful.

It is challenging to write questions that test higher order learning; the question structure tends to become more complex rather more than the content being tested (see Question Pro in Useful resources below). Students need practice before taking a summative mcq examination so that they are being tested on their knowledge of the material and not on their understanding of the question type.

Taking full advantage of the feedback may be more time consuming for students than actually answering questions; but this is one of their strengths.

Multiple choice question writing is expensive in terms of time, but once a good item bank has been established then the use of the questions, and their marking, is of low demand in terms of time.

Short answer questions are relatively fast to mark and can be marked by different assessors, as long as the questions are set in such a way that all alternative answers can be considered by the assessors.

Useful resources

Multiple Choice

Question Pro: Multiple choice questions.

Moodle Docs

Vanderbilt University, Center for Teaching. Writing Good Multiple Choice Test Questions

Short Answer

Open University: Types of assignment: Short answer questions

Moodle docs: short-answer question types

Annotated bibliography

Class participation

Concept maps

Essay variants: essays only with more focus

  • briefing / policy papers
  • research proposals
  • articles and reviews
  • essay plans

Film production

Laboratory notebooks and reports

Objective tests

  • short-answer
  • multiple choice questions

Oral presentations

Patchwork assessment

Creative / artistic performance

  • learning logs
  • learning blogs


Work-based assessment

Reference list

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17.6: What are the benefits of essay tests?

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  • Page ID 87692

  • Jennfer Kidd, Jamie Kaufman, Peter Baker, Patrick O'Shea, Dwight Allen, & Old Dominion U students
  • Old Dominion University

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the benefits of essay questions for both Students and Teachers
  • Identify when essays are useful


Essays, along with multiple choice, are a very common method of assessment. Essays offer a means completely different than that of multiple choice. When thinking of a means of assessment, the essay along with multiple choice are the two that most come to mind (Schouller).The essay lends itself to specific subjects; for example, a math test would not have an essay question. The essay is more common in the arts, humanities and the social sciences(Scouller). On occasion an essay can be used used in both physical and natural sciences as well(Scouller). As a future history teacher, I will find that essays will be an essential part of my teaching structure.

The Benefits for Students

By utilizing essays as a mean of assessments, teachers are able to better survey what the student has learned. Multiple choice questions, by their very design, can be worked around. The student can guess, and has decent chance of getting the question right, even if they did not know the answer. This blind guessing does not benefit the student at all. In addition, some multiple choices can deceive the student(Moore). Short answers, and their big brother the essay, work in an entirely different way. Essays remove this factor. in a addition, rather than simply recognize the subject matter, the student must recall the material covered. This challenges the student more, and by forcing the student to remember the information needed, causes the student to retain it better. This in turn reinforces understanding(Moore). Scouller adds to this observation, determining that essay assessment "encourages students' development of higher order intellectual skills and the employment of deeper learning approaches; and secondly, allows students to demonstrate their development."

"Essay questions provide more opportunity to communicate ideas. Whereas multiple choice limits the options, an essay allows the student express ideas that would otherwise not be communicated." (Moore)

The Benefits for Teachers

The matter of preparation must also be considered when comparing multiple choice and essays. For multiple choice questions, the instructor must choose several questions that cover the material covered. After doing so, then the teacher has to come up with multiple possible answers. This is much more difficult than one might assume. With the essay question, the teacher will still need to be creative. However, the teacher only has to come up with a topic, and what the student is expected to cover. This saves the teacher time. When grading, the teacher knows what he or she is looking for in the paper, so the time spent reading is not necessarily more. The teacher also benefits from a better understanding of what they are teaching. The process of selecting a good essay question requires some critical thought of its own, which reflects onto the teacher(Moore).

Multiple Choice. True or False. Short Answer. Essay. All are forms of assessment. All have their pros and cons. For some, they are better suited for particular subjects. Others, not so much. Some students may even find essays to be easier. It is vital to understand when it is best to utilize the essay. Obviously for teachers of younger students, essays are not as useful. However, as the age of the student increase, the importance of the essay follows suit. That essays are utilized in essential exams such as the SAT, SOLs and in our case the PRAXIS demonstrates how important essays are. However, what it ultimately comes down to is what the teacher feels what will best assess what has been covered.

Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

1)What Subject would most benefit from essays?

B: Mathematics for the Liberal Arts

C: Survey of American Literature

2)What is an advantage of essay assessment for the student?

A) They allow for better expression

B) There is little probability for randomness

C) The time taken is less overall

D) A & B

3)What is NOT a benefit of essay assessment for the teacher

A)They help the instructor better understand the subject

B)They remove some the work required for multiple choice

C)The time spent on preparation is less

D) There is no noticeable benefit.

4)Issac is a teacher making up a test. The test will have multiple sections: Short answer, multiple choice, and an essay. What subject does Issac MOST LIKELY teach?

References Cited

1)Moore, S.(2008) Interview with Scott Moore, Professor at Old Dominion University

2)Scouller, K. (1998). The influence of assessment method on students' learning approaches: multiple Choice question examination versus assignment essay. Higher Education 35(4), pp. 453–472

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  • The four main types of essay | Quick guide with examples

The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

Published on September 4, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

An essay is a focused piece of writing designed to inform or persuade. There are many different types of essay, but they are often defined in four categories: argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays.

Argumentative and expository essays are focused on conveying information and making clear points, while narrative and descriptive essays are about exercising creativity and writing in an interesting way. At university level, argumentative essays are the most common type. 

In high school and college, you will also often have to write textual analysis essays, which test your skills in close reading and interpretation.

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Table of contents

Argumentative essays, expository essays, narrative essays, descriptive essays, textual analysis essays, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of essays.

An argumentative essay presents an extended, evidence-based argument. It requires a strong thesis statement —a clearly defined stance on your topic. Your aim is to convince the reader of your thesis using evidence (such as quotations ) and analysis.

Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation.

The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion:

  • The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement
  • The body presents your evidence and arguments
  • The conclusion summarizes your argument and emphasizes its importance

The example below is a paragraph from the body of an argumentative essay about the effects of the internet on education. Mouse over it to learn more.

A common frustration for teachers is students’ use of Wikipedia as a source in their writing. Its prevalence among students is not exaggerated; a survey found that the vast majority of the students surveyed used Wikipedia (Head & Eisenberg, 2010). An article in The Guardian stresses a common objection to its use: “a reliance on Wikipedia can discourage students from engaging with genuine academic writing” (Coomer, 2013). Teachers are clearly not mistaken in viewing Wikipedia usage as ubiquitous among their students; but the claim that it discourages engagement with academic sources requires further investigation. This point is treated as self-evident by many teachers, but Wikipedia itself explicitly encourages students to look into other sources. Its articles often provide references to academic publications and include warning notes where citations are missing; the site’s own guidelines for research make clear that it should be used as a starting point, emphasizing that users should always “read the references and check whether they really do support what the article says” (“Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia,” 2020). Indeed, for many students, Wikipedia is their first encounter with the concepts of citation and referencing. The use of Wikipedia therefore has a positive side that merits deeper consideration than it often receives.

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An expository essay provides a clear, focused explanation of a topic. It doesn’t require an original argument, just a balanced and well-organized view of the topic.

Expository essays test your familiarity with a topic and your ability to organize and convey information. They are commonly assigned at high school or in exam questions at college level.

The introduction of an expository essay states your topic and provides some general background, the body presents the details, and the conclusion summarizes the information presented.

A typical body paragraph from an expository essay about the invention of the printing press is shown below. Mouse over it to learn more.

The invention of the printing press in 1440 changed this situation dramatically. Johannes Gutenberg, who had worked as a goldsmith, used his knowledge of metals in the design of the press. He made his type from an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony, whose durability allowed for the reliable production of high-quality books. This new technology allowed texts to be reproduced and disseminated on a much larger scale than was previously possible. The Gutenberg Bible appeared in the 1450s, and a large number of printing presses sprang up across the continent in the following decades. Gutenberg’s invention rapidly transformed cultural production in Europe; among other things, it would lead to the Protestant Reformation.

A narrative essay is one that tells a story. This is usually a story about a personal experience you had, but it may also be an imaginative exploration of something you have not experienced.

Narrative essays test your ability to build up a narrative in an engaging, well-structured way. They are much more personal and creative than other kinds of academic writing . Writing a personal statement for an application requires the same skills as a narrative essay.

A narrative essay isn’t strictly divided into introduction, body, and conclusion, but it should still begin by setting up the narrative and finish by expressing the point of the story—what you learned from your experience, or why it made an impression on you.

Mouse over the example below, a short narrative essay responding to the prompt “Write about an experience where you learned something about yourself,” to explore its structure.

Since elementary school, I have always favored subjects like science and math over the humanities. My instinct was always to think of these subjects as more solid and serious than classes like English. If there was no right answer, I thought, why bother? But recently I had an experience that taught me my academic interests are more flexible than I had thought: I took my first philosophy class.

Before I entered the classroom, I was skeptical. I waited outside with the other students and wondered what exactly philosophy would involve—I really had no idea. I imagined something pretty abstract: long, stilted conversations pondering the meaning of life. But what I got was something quite different.

A young man in jeans, Mr. Jones—“but you can call me Rob”—was far from the white-haired, buttoned-up old man I had half-expected. And rather than pulling us into pedantic arguments about obscure philosophical points, Rob engaged us on our level. To talk free will, we looked at our own choices. To talk ethics, we looked at dilemmas we had faced ourselves. By the end of class, I’d discovered that questions with no right answer can turn out to be the most interesting ones.

The experience has taught me to look at things a little more “philosophically”—and not just because it was a philosophy class! I learned that if I let go of my preconceptions, I can actually get a lot out of subjects I was previously dismissive of. The class taught me—in more ways than one—to look at things with an open mind.

A descriptive essay provides a detailed sensory description of something. Like narrative essays, they allow you to be more creative than most academic writing, but they are more tightly focused than narrative essays. You might describe a specific place or object, rather than telling a whole story.

Descriptive essays test your ability to use language creatively, making striking word choices to convey a memorable picture of what you’re describing.

A descriptive essay can be quite loosely structured, though it should usually begin by introducing the object of your description and end by drawing an overall picture of it. The important thing is to use careful word choices and figurative language to create an original description of your object.

Mouse over the example below, a response to the prompt “Describe a place you love to spend time in,” to learn more about descriptive essays.

On Sunday afternoons I like to spend my time in the garden behind my house. The garden is narrow but long, a corridor of green extending from the back of the house, and I sit on a lawn chair at the far end to read and relax. I am in my small peaceful paradise: the shade of the tree, the feel of the grass on my feet, the gentle activity of the fish in the pond beside me.

My cat crosses the garden nimbly and leaps onto the fence to survey it from above. From his perch he can watch over his little kingdom and keep an eye on the neighbours. He does this until the barking of next door’s dog scares him from his post and he bolts for the cat flap to govern from the safety of the kitchen.

With that, I am left alone with the fish, whose whole world is the pond by my feet. The fish explore the pond every day as if for the first time, prodding and inspecting every stone. I sometimes feel the same about sitting here in the garden; I know the place better than anyone, but whenever I return I still feel compelled to pay attention to all its details and novelties—a new bird perched in the tree, the growth of the grass, and the movement of the insects it shelters…

Sitting out in the garden, I feel serene. I feel at home. And yet I always feel there is more to discover. The bounds of my garden may be small, but there is a whole world contained within it, and it is one I will never get tired of inhabiting.

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objective essay test

Though every essay type tests your writing skills, some essays also test your ability to read carefully and critically. In a textual analysis essay, you don’t just present information on a topic, but closely analyze a text to explain how it achieves certain effects.

Rhetorical analysis

A rhetorical analysis looks at a persuasive text (e.g. a speech, an essay, a political cartoon) in terms of the rhetorical devices it uses, and evaluates their effectiveness.

The goal is not to state whether you agree with the author’s argument but to look at how they have constructed it.

The introduction of a rhetorical analysis presents the text, some background information, and your thesis statement; the body comprises the analysis itself; and the conclusion wraps up your analysis of the text, emphasizing its relevance to broader concerns.

The example below is from a rhetorical analysis of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech . Mouse over it to learn more.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

Literary analysis

A literary analysis essay presents a close reading of a work of literature—e.g. a poem or novel—to explore the choices made by the author and how they help to convey the text’s theme. It is not simply a book report or a review, but an in-depth interpretation of the text.

Literary analysis looks at things like setting, characters, themes, and figurative language. The goal is to closely analyze what the author conveys and how.

The introduction of a literary analysis essay presents the text and background, and provides your thesis statement; the body consists of close readings of the text with quotations and analysis in support of your argument; and the conclusion emphasizes what your approach tells us about the text.

Mouse over the example below, the introduction to a literary analysis essay on Frankenstein , to learn more.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, protagonist Victor Frankenstein is a stable representation of the callous ambition of modern science throughout the novel. This essay, however, argues that far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to portray Frankenstein in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as. This essay begins by exploring the positive portrayal of Frankenstein in the first volume, then moves on to the creature’s perception of him, and finally discusses the third volume’s narrative shift toward viewing Frankenstein as the creature views him.

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At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

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How to Study for Objective Test Questions

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  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

Objective test questions are those that require a specific answer. An objective question usually has only one potential correct answer (although there may be some room for answers that are close), and they leave no room for opinion. Objective test questions differ from subjective test questions, which have more than one potential correct answer and sometimes have room for a justified opinion.

Objective test questions may be constructed as a list of possible answers, requiring the students to recognize the correct one from the list. These questions include matching , true/false , and multiple choice . Other objective test questions, like fill-in-the-blank questions, require that the student recall the correct answer from memory.

How to Study for Objective Questions

Objective questions with short, specific answers require memorization. Flashcards are a helpful tool for this process. However, students should not stop with memorizing terms and definitions, as memorization is only the first step. As a student, you must gain a deeper understanding of each term or concept in order to understand why some potential multiple choice answers are incorrect.

Imagine that you need to know the effects of the Emancipation Proclamation for your history test. To succeed on the test, It is not enough to remember what the proclamation did accomplish. You must also consider what this executive order did not do.

For example, you should know that the proclamation was not a law and that its impact was limited. This knowledge will help you predict which wrong answers might be presented on the test and will enable you to outsmart any trick questions.

Because you should go beyond memorizing answers for your test terms, you should team up with a study partner  and create your own multiple choice practice test. Each of you should write out one right and several wrong answers. Then, you should discuss why each potential answer is correct or incorrect.

Tackling Objective Test Questions

Ideally, you have studied hard and you know all the answers. Realistically, however, there will be some questions that you find a little tricky. Sometimes, a multiple choice question will have two answers that you can’t quite decide between. Don’t be afraid to skip these questions and answer the ones you feel most confident about first. That way, you know what questions you need to spend a little more time on. The same goes for matching style tests. Eliminate all the options you know are wrong and mark out the answers you've already used. This process will make the remaining answers a little easier to identify.

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  1. Tips for Creating and Scoring Essay Tests - ThoughtCo

    Prepare the essay rubric in advance. Determine what you are looking for and how many points you will be assigning for each aspect of the question. Avoid looking at names. Some teachers have students put numbers on their essays to try and help with this. Score one item at a time.

  2. Essay Tests - TIP Sheets - Butte College

    Essay Tests. There are basically two types of exams: Objective - requires answers of a word or short phrase, or the selection of an answer from several available choices that are provided on the test. Essay - requires answers to be written out at some length. The student functions as the source of information.

  3. Essay Test vs Objective Test - Educare ~ We Educate, We Care.

    Difference between Essay tests and Objective Tests. 1 – In essay items the examinee writes the answer in her/his own words whereas the in objective type of tests the examinee selects the correct answer from the among several given alternatives. 2 – Thinking and writing are important in essay tests whereas reading and thinking are important ...

  4. Multiple Choice and Other Objective Tests - TIP Sheets ...

    Multiple Choice and Other Objective Tests. General Statements about Objective Tests. Objective tests require recognition and recall of subject matter. The forms vary: questions of fact, sentence completion, true-false, analogy, multiple-choice, and matching. They tend to cover more material than essay tests. They have one, and only one, correct ...

  5. Essay Test: The Ultimate Guide with The Best Strategies

    The 7 Steps of an Essay. Writing an essay test typically involves seven steps: Understanding the question. Brainstorming ideas. Creating an outline. Crafting a thesis statement. Writing the essay body. Formulating the conclusion. Revising and editing for clarity and conciseness.

  6. Essay Test Preparation Tips and Strategies - Education Corner

    Being able to identify and becoming familiar with the most common types of essay test questions is key to improving performance on essay exams. The following are 5 of the most common question types you’ll find on essay exams. 1. Identify. Identify essay questions ask for short, concise answers and typically do not require a fully developed essay.

  7. Objective tests - The University of Warwick

    Introduction. Objective tests are questions whose answers are either correct or incorrect. They tend to be better at testing 'low order' thinking skills, such as memory, basic comprehension and perhaps application (of numerical procedures for example) and are often (though not necessarily always) best used for diagnostic assessment.

  8. 17.6: What are the benefits of essay tests? - Social Sci ...

    Essays, along with multiple choice, are a very common method of assessment. Essays offer a means completely different than that of multiple choice. When thinking of a means of assessment, the essay along with multiple choice are the two that most come to mind (Schouller).The essay lends itself to specific subjects; for example, a math test ...

  9. The Four Main Types of Essay | Quick Guide with Examples

    Argumentative essays test your ability to research and present your own position on a topic. This is the most common type of essay at college level—most papers you write will involve some kind of argumentation. The essay is divided into an introduction, body, and conclusion: The introduction provides your topic and thesis statement

  10. How to Study for Objective Test Questions - ThoughtCo

    Objective test questions may be constructed as a list of possible answers, requiring the students to recognize the correct one from the list. These questions include matching, true/false, and multiple choice. Other objective test questions, like fill-in-the-blank questions, require that the student recall the correct answer from memory.