EXAM GUIDE FOR E301 ADV. WRITING, CSU FULLERTON SPRING 2013 (5/16/13)
DO'S AND DON'TS DURING THE EXAM
You may use your books and written notes (journal entries, lecture notes, blog entries) during all sections of the exam. But keep in mind that having books and notes on hand is no substitute for careful reading and review.
You will not need a bluebook or any extra paper for the exam. You can use either pen or pencil. No scantrons: I will bring in a sheet containing the exam's three sections; write your responses for them directly on the exam.
You may not SHARE books or notes with others or converse with them during the exam. You can use your own books and notes, but not those of others.
You may not use a laptop during the exam. Students should not have unfair access to powerful search features available even without an Internet connection. You must print out any notes you want to use. If you have a Kindle or similar version of the book/s, that's acceptable.
You may not do things that distract others. Taking an exam is like being in a library: one doesn't chomp on bubble gum or chips in a library, and it isn't acceptable during an exam either.
EXAM GOALS AND PREP STRATEGIES: LEARNING BEYOND TESTS, TAKING NOTES
Why are exams worthwhile? Exams are valuable because they encourage an organized study approach and close attention to assigned material. If you have ever tried to learn a foreign language on your own, for example, you know how much difference orienting yourself towards an exam and other classroom evaluation procedures (quizzes, drills, etc.) can make. Without the accountability factor, we just don't learn as much as we should. Exams aren't worth much in themselves, but because you want to do well on them, you may approach the material in a way that helps you learn more in the short term and enjoy subsequent literary encounters later on.
What's the best way to prepare for an exam? The first thing is to find out what kind it will be and work out a learning strategy to suit that kind of exam, but even more important is not to make "doing well on the exam" the sole purpose of your efforts. Read the texts for what they have to offer. Do your best to understand them and bring your own experience to bear. Write down (preferably in a running file) what you like most (or least) about authors, ideas, periods, and styles. Try to figure out why they strike you as they do, to the extent possible. Attending to an author's style, forms, and ideas as well as to period-related concerns ought to complement the genuine interest that makes studying literature worthwhile. It should not become a mechanical exercise that replaces such interest.
What's the best way to take notes? Develop a strategy. The The Cornell System builds reflection into the process, but perhaps your own will work better. Socrates says that a teacher is a midwife who helps others give birth to their own ideas, so experienced instructors offer their ideas as starting points and foundations for further thinking, not as final prescriptions. Strong students learn from others without giving up the right to determine what matters most to them. I suggest that you take notes particularly on what is unfamiliar to you, on what is new or not immediately comprehensible, and on what seems insightful or worth remembering for its own sake, not just on what is already familiar, easily comprehensible, or test-likely. The point of getting an education is to encounter things you don't already know but that you find worth the effort of learning.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE EXAM
I will keep this exam format very straightforward since I've decided not to include texts beyond Thomas Kane's book on the exam â€“ texts such as The Swallows of Kabul> and Fire and Forget are good books, but I assigned them mainly with an eye towards the possibility of your developing a paper on one of them; besides, they're well written and so good examples in that regard.
So what will the exam consist of? It will include questions on some of the key chapters in Thomas Kane's The New Oxford Guide to Writing. I will most likely, for example, offer you some sentences that are somewhat badly or very badly written (they're fun to write!) and below each of those sentences I will offer you a list of grammatical or stylistic issues (whichever is appropriate) to choose from that might be wrong with them, along with a few choices that aren't the problem with them. A second thing I'll do is give examples of the various types of sentence styles that Kane identifies, and ask you to choose the appropriate designation. I will also probably ask a number of fairly basic questions on punctuation, grammar, and on handling quotations (but not in a way that will force you to stick to one citation style, since after all there are many and I myself am mainly familiar with the English major's standard MLA (Modern Language Association) style. There is no essay portion of the exam â€“ it won't require much writing on your part.
Finally, don't stress out over the exam â€“ it isn't going to be a huge percentage of the course grade, and I'm not out to trip you up with ridiculously minute "fine points" of style of grammar.