Exam Prep for E222-R, CSU Fullerton Fall 2006

FAQ: it doesn't matter whether you use a bluebook, and you can use your books and notes during the exam.

The best way to prepare for an exam is to find out what kind it will be, but also — and more importantly — to keep it from becoming the center 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 upon them. Determine what you like most (or least) about the authors, insights, and styles you come across, and try to figure out why they strike you as they do. When I was an undergraduate, I concentrated on the course readings and did not worry a great deal about exams. You can't go wrong with this method if you are willing to ask questions when things don't make sense and to do more than skim the pages for test-likely material.

Here is a guide to my expectations for the final, along with suggestions for review. First of all, all three parts of the essay will be open book and open note. I design exams to see how well students have done in two areas: the first is simple recognition (the identification part), and the second is degree of engagement with the assigned texts (the essay part). The "short answer" component belongs partly in both areas. Respectively, the "id" part is 15%, the short response part is worth 20%, and the essay is 65% of the exam grade.

As the percentages indicate, for the most part I want to find out what students have learned, not what they haven't. But including passage identifications and a number of very short responses encourages "a certain kind of attention" to the readings. Rote memory isn't an exalted part of learning, but it indicates whether students have read the required selections carefully and remember important parts of them. Students who do the reading and who can make meaningful connections amongst the assigned texts deserve the best grades.

Things to keep in mind while studying throughout the semester:

1. The final exam will be cumulative. The full-essay choices will, however, consist of questions about authors since the half-way point in the course, with an option to write about authors we read before then. The id's and short responses will be fully cumulative.

2. There will be some choice in id's, short responses, and full essay questions — I won't, for example, give you just one full essay question and insist that you write on that question. There will be several, and you will only have to pick one.

3. Include specific references — quotations and paraphrases where that would be appropriate. Don't respond without reference to the texts themselves. You don't have to demonstrate absolute knowledge of the work as a whole, but you do have to show that you have understood the parts of it that you choose to discuss and that you can fit those parts into the basic scheme of the text — something that must be done to provide context for quotations and perhaps as part of the rationale for the entire response.

4. Write as simply and clearly as possible. Give any teacher a stack of exams, and the better grades will go to the ones that offer good content and sound style. A relatively brief, coherent, well-written and well-proofread essay is better than a rambling and vague one.

5. For the essay part, be prepared to write about something other than what you have covered in your paper or papers. My exams always require that you choose new authors to write about.

6. My essay questions are often comparative — that means comparing and contrasting the views of two or more authors.