Short answer exams come in a couple of formats.  The first is where you are given a set of short answer questions and you have to answer every question.  The second is where you might get given a dozen or more questions and you have to select a number of them to answer.  The second option is obviously preferable as you can quickly eliminate any questions that you are not confident in (or have no idea about).

The added benefit of short answer questions is you have to write a little about a variety of topics.  So, you do not need the in depth knowledge that may be required for an essay or case study question.  Neither can you get a question completely wrong if you know something about the topic, something that can easily occur in a multiple choice exam.

That’s not to say that short answer exams are easy.  You still need to have an adequate knowledge on a variety of topics and of course, the more you know, the more prepared you will be.

So how do you approach these type of exams?

In your preparation, you will want to make sure you adequately cover each of the topics that could come up in your exam but the best way is to practice doing short answer type questions.  Often, text books don’t have the in depth questions that will approximate a short answer question so take advantage of practice and revision questions and make sure that first, you can understand the question.  Because there are limited number of questions, make sure you really understand what the question is asking of you.

Secondly, try to tease out any knowledge that you do have into a comprehensive answer.  This is not a license to waffle on but to answer the question to the best of your ability.  Make use of your perusal time to write down any notes that you have about each of the questions.  It will make it easier to answer when it comes to the actual answering of the questions.

Short answer exams do have other advantages over other exam types but the best advantage you can give yourself is to study and prepare to the best of your ability.

Remember, preparation always precedes success.


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