Exam Prep for E240 World Ancient Literature, Chapman U Spring 2007
FINAL EXAM PREPARATION FOR E240 WORLD ANCIENT LITERATURE (UPDATED 1/17)

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, there will be three sections to address: identification of substantive passages (author and text where appropriate); one or two short responses of a paragraph or two in length; a fuller, comparative essay asking students to discuss two authors with regard to some topic as specified. All three parts of the essay will be cumulative, 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 short-response section and the comparative essay). Respectively, the "id" part is 15%, the short response part is worth 20%, and the comparative essay is 65% of the exam grade.

For the most part I want to find out what students have learned, not what they haven't. Including passage identifications 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 enough to be able to distinguish them stylistically and in terms of content: major ideas, plot concerns, etc. But the "id's" are only a small portion of the test -- students who not only do the reading but who can make meaningful connections amongst the assigned texts deserve the best grades.

Things to keep in mind while studying throughout the semester:

1. Most of the exam grade comes from your performance on the second and third sections, so it's best not to allow the id passages to take more than approximately 15 minutes of your time initially. If you can't finish within that time frame, move on to the short- and full-essay parts; then, if time permits, you can go back to the id's and finish them.

2. The final exam will be cumulative; that is, the id's and questions will have to do with authors from the beginning of our syllabus onwards.

3. There will be some choice in id's, short responses, and full essay questions -- with respect to the comparative essay, for example, I won't give you only one question from which to choose; there will be several, and you will only have to address one question.

4. Include specific references to the texts you cover -- quotations and paraphrases where that would be appropriate. Don't respond with "truisms" (vaguely general remarks or merely appreciative statements like "Virgil's Aeneid is a timeless work of art," etc.) to exam questions. Be specific. You don't have to demonstrate absolute knowledge of the work, but you must show that you have understood the specific parts of it that you 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.

5. 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 that addresses the text's specifics is better than a rambling and vague one.

6. For the essay part, be prepared to write about something other than what you have covered in your paper or papers. My exam questions sometimes require that you avoid writing about authors you have chosen for your term paper; they are also usually comparative -- they involve comparing and contrasting the views of two authors.