Preparation according to Exam’s format - Types of Questions

We sometimes hear the phrase: preparation for an exam in proper lines. This means to prepare yourself for an exam in the correct way so you can score high in the exam. Some students may make a lot of preparation for an exam, but they still end up getting a low score in their exam because they have not done it in the correct way. One important aspect of preparing yourself for an exam in the correct way is to consider the nature of the questions asked in the exam. It is not only about studying your books but also studying them in the way that enables you to answer different types of questions perfectly. Different types of questions require different approaches to make preparation for them. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how to make preparation according to the nature of questions asked in an exam.

A student must read the past papers or specimen papers of the exam to understand its format before making preparation for the exam. There can be different types of questions such as scenario-based questions where the student is given a scenario and questions are asked on this scenario. However, the most common three types of questions are as follows:

Long questions – that require a detailed explanatory answer.
Short questions – that require a few lines compact answer.
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) – that require choosing an answer from the given options.

These types of question can be asked within the same exam or as a separate exam such as MCQs based test. We will discuss how to make preparation for these three common types of questions in proper lines.  

  Preparation for long questions – that require a detailed explanatory answer.

These questions are sometimes called explanatory questions, essay questions, or simply long questions. They carry the highest marks within a paper having different types of questions. Students should generally spend most of their time preparing for this question during their preparation for the exam.

Explanatory questions are designed to assess student learning about a major area in its entirety. They generally ask about a major phenomenon, theory, some multi-stage process, and so on. Every such topic has several aspects. First thing is that students should focus on major topics within their book and learn their different aspects. Getting marks in these questions depend on the number of aspects discussed by the student in his answer. This means that the student has to learn the maximum number of aspects of the topic. For this, it is better to study from different books and online study resources. The more aspects, you are able to discuss in your answer, the more marks you get. It is because this is what an explanatory question means to be – to give a maximum explanation; and this is how the examiner generally marks the explanatory questions.

Some students suffice on preparation from one source which is an approach of an average student. However, successful students do consider different sources for learning. For instance, you are asked about a social phenomenon, there can be many aspects of this social phenomenon, but they all are not covered in one single source. The more aspects (as sub-heading) you give in the paper, the more marks you get. Some students purposefully study more sources to collect more aspects to be presented as parts or sub-headings of the answer. Similarly, if this is a science topic, there can be many more relevant pieces of information available in other sources of learning (e.g., book and online webpages) which may not be present your textbook.

In addition to learning different parts of the topic (e.g., stages involved in a process, types of something, or other parts as paragraphs or sub-headings) and it is also important to retain them in your brain to be able to reproduce them in the right order in your exam.

The second consideration relates to the presentation of the answer. You should learn how to present your ideas while writing an explanatory answer. For instance, there should be an introductory part, the main body and the conclusion part. Start with an introduction giving a definition or meaning of the concept or a paragraph of simple sentences which becomes the introductory base of your answer. The introductory part can be one or two paragraphs. Then, start the main body of your answer.

The main body would contain several paragraphs. Here, you can use headings and sub-headings or simple paragraph style. If you have to discuss something which naturally has parts (e.g. types, stages, or separable aspects), you will definitely use heading and sub-headings. However, even if the answer is a plain description of ideas (to be written as paragraphs), it is still advisable to use some headings and sub-headings. This makes your answer easily readable and understandable for the examiner as well as look more appealing to the eye. This shows you have taken the discussion seriously and tried to present it in a better way. Even the plain discussion can be divided into parts by grouping the common ideas within it to be treated as separate parts with headings. Use different colours for headings and sub-headings. You can also use a highlighter to highlight some important information within your answer.

The last part would be the conclusion. It is advisable to give a conclusion at the end. Better use a proper heading such as ‘conclusion’ or ‘final words’. This should summarize your discussion into a few lines, as well as present a brief critical overview (having criticism) of the discussion. It is possible to give a conclusion for most topics and for many topics it is a must part. However, if you think that your topic is very plain and giving any conclusion is not possible. In such a case, you may simply take the most important pieces of information from your discussion and can present them as a short summary at the end in the form of a small paragraph. You can use the heading ‘summary’ or ‘brief summary’.  

The purpose of the above discussion is to help the students understand that while preparing for long questions, they should consider the above necessary parts of the answer. For instance, they should think about what they should write in the introduction or conclusion part if a question is asked on a specific topic while they are studying it for the exam.

  Preparation for Multiple Choice Question (MCQs)

MCQs can be a part of an exam or as a separate exam such as an MCQ test. They require to choose an answer from the given options.

They generally ask about specific things such as terminology, concept, or some fact. For preparation for MCQs, the student should use a pencil to underline every such important piece of information while reading books in their general routine. A highlighter can also be used for this purpose. This will help them focus on these important pieces of information (as underlined or highlighted) while studying their books for making their preparation for the exam.

MCQs have normally a very short time to attempt them. Every MCQ may hardly get one minute. Therefore, the students should practice them before the exam, particularly when the whole exam is based on MCQs. To correctly answer the MCQs, use some tips: 1) After reading the question, try to figure out its answer in your brain before looking at the options. When you directly look at the options, you may sometimes get confused because you have seen similar options without giving a try to your brain. Even if you do not figure out the answer but you a try to your brain first, it still helps when you look at the options to get the correct answer. 2) When you feel totally blank about a question and cannot answer it by any means, it is better to first skip out those options which you think can surely not be the answer. Then, choose from the remaining options. This enhances your likelihood to answer correctly. 3) Do not stick to one question for long, if you cannot answer it, move on to another question without wasting time on it.

  Preparation for short questions

These questions require a few lines short answer. They generally ask about the common definition, important part (e.g., one type of something, one stage of a multi-process) of a major topic. They may also involve the application of a small formula such as to solve a small numerical or problem by using that formula. Generally, your preparation for long questions should make you prepare for the short questions too. However, it is advisable to focus on small topics or important concepts within major topics with the aim of preparation for short questions. The answer of a short question should be compact and to the point. Avoid giving unnecessary details and explanations to avoid wasting time on them and to save more time for the explanatory questions included in the exam.