Tips and Insights for Writing Essay Exams for the best Grades

author By Mary Boies

Every student dreads essay exams yet it is an integral part of the assessment that almost every student must undertake. It is usually certain that a student will encounter exams comprising essays alone, whether short or long.

Usually, such exams don’t give as much time as essay assignments. Rather, you are required to come up with a structure for your answers based on the essay prompts, organize your thoughts, and write an essay that answers the prompt.

Although college essay exams can be challenging to take, the answer to being less intimidated by essay exams is preparing adequately.

An exam essay entails answering specific questions or addressing an essay prompt based on course materials, topics explored in class, or a scenario provided by the examiner. In this guide, we take you through the best way to prepare for and ace an essay exam. These essay study tips, insights, and pieces of advice are tried and tested.

Preparing for the Exam

When studying for an essay test, you have to bring forth might, skills, and abilities. The preparation is slightly different and more detailed compared to handling multiple-choice tests (MCQs).

Whether your exam is an open book or open not, or one where you are required not to bring any aid at all, without adequate preparation, the entire test might be the hardest challenge in your academic life.

There are certain things that rank as preparing and practicing for essay tests. What we believe is that you can practice answering the questions even if you don’t know the exact questions that you will be asked during the test.

When you develop a strategy that focuses on success in writing essay exams, you are bound to take charge of the situation by mastering the semester's content and material. Here are some tips and insights to consider before the exam.

Be Active in Class

Attending classes and being active in class often help you internalize as many facts and information as possible. Although it seems like a cliché the first step to acing any exam, not just essay exams, is to attend class.

It helps you to identify and understand the perspective of your instructor on a subject and the topics they love the most. You will also take part in class discussions and do assignments, some of which might have essay questions to feature in the exams.

When you attend class, you are likely to be knowledgeable of the subject as you get involved with the material. As a result, you can compartmentalize knowledge and use it effectively during essay exams or tests.

While attending classes, try as much to stay away from distractions. Also, ensure that you ask thought-provoking questions and clarify things with your peers and instructor. You can also comment on the readings and take well-organized notes.

Take Adequate and Organized Notes

As you attend the classes, ensure to take notes. Even when provided with printed outlines, handouts, or material, take notes so that you can remember more. Writing personal notes helps you to learn at your pace and master as much as you can.

As you prepare for the essay exam, notes become a gem that nobody else has. Therefore, have a notebook, take good notes, and read the notes.

Notes are good for referring to ideas and facts. Besides, it helps you capture key ideas and unique information that the professor never recorded in the printed handouts.

If taking notes is not your thing, you can consult with your instructor to allow you to record the lecture for reference. You can then take the notes later at your own pace and pick up facts relevant to the test.

Read Extensively and Objectively

Taking good notes is one thing and reading them is another. You need to actively read the notes, research further, and take more notes. Besides, you also need to attempt all the class reading assignments so that you are prepared for the class. Instead of cramming last minute, read extensively and widely as advised by your instructor. If you are reading ahead, take notes and write the questions you have about the chapter or topic.

If there is a reading guide, follow the schedule so that you have a structured approach to knowledge acquisition. You will keep up with the readings and absorb as much knowledge as you can.

Apart from dwelling on the readings, read external sources. For example, you can find scholarly sources related to your assigned class readings. Go through them to develop a perspective and understand the topics further.

Find the best places to Study

As you prepare for the exam, find a distraction-free place to study. It could be the library, café, park, your room, or hostel. It should be a place that gives you the ambiance and peace of mind to gain as much knowledge as you can.

If you have a designated study place or room, the better for you because you can take advantage of the calm it brings. Stay away from distractions such as social media, TV, or radio. During your scheduled study time, avoid calls and ensure that you have all the material.

It will get you in the study and exam mode, which can help you achieve so much in one sitting. In the study area, review all the material you have objectively. Try to connect ideas and come up with new insights and perspectives.

Avoid cramming. Instead, read, understand, apply, and integrate the knowledge.

Review Class Materials Often

Assuming you have organized the study material, gathered external related scholarly sources, and created a study schedule, it is now time to put a rubber on the road.

If you review new material within the first 24-hour window of encountering it for the first time, you are likely to keep as much as 60-70% of the information. Therefore, keep reviewing the new materials about a topic and readings from class. You should spread your study schedule through several days of the week.

When you experience and encounter the materials for each course that has an essay exam, you prepare ahead. You also put yourself at ease, eliminating depression or exam anxiety. Again, we insist you should avoid cramming. And spacing out your studies will help you internalize what you have learned rather than cramming the night before the exam.

Identify Potential Topics

About a few weeks into the exams, say a week or two, try to predict the likely topics that the essay questions might be drawn from. It is best if you review the class notes and look for something that your professor insisted on or assigned as further reading.

Consider the major topics and turn them into questions using the keywords like define, describe, explain, or explore. Also, check your course outline and chapter study guidelines and focus on the core topics of the course.

You can skim through the end-of-chapter discussion questions and weigh if they are fodder for potential essay questions during the exam.

Brainstorming at this point is a skill you need to master because you can come up with potential essay questions. If possible, do it with a group of peers expecting the same exam.

You can also check the old exams by past students to predict what to expect in the exam. Consulting content from previous exams in the course will help you understand the exam-setting trends of the professor or instructor.

Practice (Do a mock-up)

Having planned the list of questions that might feature in your essay exam, you need to practice well.

The first step is to develop a schedule or study sheet for the questions. You can review the notes from class, study guides, course materials, text notes, and other guides and identify the specific material you would use to respond to each question when writing the essay. You then need to organize the material, read it thoroughly, develop an outline, and organize the ideas into an essay.

When practicing, come up with a good structure for the essay. Assuming you are now familiar with writing an essay, ensure that you have identified the essay hook, thesis statement, main topic sentences, and main arguments for the essay. You can then organize these into the introduction, body, and conclusion. You can then draft an outline for the potential essay questions or prompts. As you draft, come up with suitable and unique yet related topic sentences. Follow this with the supporting materials from the readings.

As a caution, do not wait until the last minute to outline the answers or peruse the study material. Besides, note the specified word count so that you spend more words and time explaining yourself rather than repeating facts.

Also, understand that the questions might differ in essay exams. You might be asked to identify, compare, contrast, evaluate, argue, expose, or describe. Understand what these signal words mean to adequately give essay-based answers.

Revise the answers you have written to make them sound, coherent, and clear. You should proofread the work before submitting the paper for marking.

As you prepare for the exam, have enough rest. You can do this by sleeping at least 8 hours a day, taking a day off from studies and preparation, or doing something you love apart from your studies.

During the Exam

Now that you have everything about preparation, let’s shift focus to what you should do during the exam. Remember, writing a good essay entails synthesis of material, proper organization, and adequate polishing.

It is imperative to take care of yourself a day before the exam. You need to sleep well, organize your materials, and make sure you know the venue. During the exam day, wake up fresh, review the materials, take a good breakfast, listen to your power music on your way to the exam room, hydrate well, and carry the allowed materials to the exam center. If there is any issue such as a learning disability, ensure to address it with the exam office so that you are accommodated.

Instead of being like 90% of the students who start writing furiously after spending a few seconds or minutes scanning through the essay prompt or question, ensure that you use the tips below:

Read and Understand the Question/Prompt

To adequately answer an essay question, you need to be detailed, clear, and concise. In most cases, the exam questions and essay prompts are precisely worded so that you know what to do or what your professor or instructor expects.

Since you will not receive any credit for answering a question you were not asked, and you do not have time to waste writing off-topic, you need to be extra careful. Understand what you are being asked then turn the question into a topic and an essay title.

You can read the question twice or thrice as you internalize its meaning and plan inside your head.

Schedule Your Time

Because you know what is needed, try to budget your time according to the deadline given. Break the writing process into manageable chunks and give each piece some time. Scheduling your time helps you to avoid time wastage. Besides, you will most likely complete your essay on time, edit it, and submit it confidently. Concentrating on parts of your essay will help you to thoroughly address the essay questions or prompt.

An example is if you have an hour to write a two-page essay exam:

Outline Your Essay

Planning an essay within that short time should be as fast as writing it. Spend a few minutes gathering ideas and thoughts about the topic or prompt. Give as many details as you can during the planning phase.

By now you would have selected a topic and probably known what to put. However, since you are limited in time and word count, you only need the strongest points or details.

Decide on what points to include in the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Exam responses are straightforward. Therefore, ensure that the reader can pick your mind by reading through the paragraphs.

You can use mind maps to develop and relate ideas and come up with the best ideas, linking words, or vocabulary to use. Have the reader in mind when formulating the answers. Use your memory well when planning your essay.

If you are asked to explain, present information. If it is about describing, describe the event. If the question is about taking a position, ensure that your position is clear and that you include a counterargument. define facts and terms if the questions demand that you do so. The hints in the exam question or essay prompt should guide the scope and direction of your writing.

Write Fast, First, and Edit Later

When writing, write strategically. Instead of merely answering the essay question or prompt, ensure that you give examples, explain facts, and connect ideas.

In your introduction, begin with an attention-grabber, which can be a fact or statistic. You should then expound on the topic or question by giving short background information. Wrap up the introduction paragraph by formulating and presenting a thesis statement that answers the question or addresses the prompt. The thesis should introduce the topic, your argument, and how you will support the thesis.

You can use a procedural, chronological, or logical format to present your points. Use transition words to make your essay flow and connect ideas. When presenting ideas, be direct. Also, use short sentences when presenting ideas. You can use adjectives and adverbs sparingly and avoid parenthetical remarks.

Recount events as necessary and give enough evidence. Ensure that you signpost ideas in your essay to signal the readers to the important points in your essay. For example, you can say “Three factors that influence climate change include…” Also, ensure that each paragraph has its own unique idea.

Get directly to the point you want to cover in your essay. A better way is to execute the essay outline you already have. Remember, most of what you write in the essay is an analysis of the evidence that supports the arguments you are making.

As you write, ensure that you make persuasive arguments. Besides, organize your supporting points so that you have coherent, clear, and concise body paragraphs.

Write with confidence because you have done the proper preparation. And after writing the essay, take a few minutes to re-read it, correct grammatical errors and mistakes, and ensure that it meets the threshold set in the rubric.

Check out this video by Ana Mascara, which pretty much summarizes everything we’ve discussed in this guide

Final Remarks

As you prepare and take your essay exam, be wary that excuses, fear, and lack of adequate planning can lead to instant failure. Essay exams are a bunch of stressful. You can go blank or run out of time.

Also Read:

But now that you know how to study for essay exams in college and have the exam essay writing tips, you are set up for essay tests. However, if you need help with writing urgent essay exams, we’re here to help. It is a good idea to get help.

EssayManiacs has experts that can write your essay exam and deliver it minutes away before submission. You need to make prior arrangements with us so that we have a writer or writers ready for you. If you want an essay written in an hour or a few hours, we’re the best bet.

An essay exam is critical and deserves your all, even if it means getting little help from our professionals.

As we wish you the best of luck, we also encourage you to choose our website for your urgent essay-writing needs.

We do essay writing in an hour, 2, 3, 4,5, 6, or under 12 hours. Our experts are ready, and the service is a click away.

Need a Discount to Order?

15% OFF First Order!

What you get from us


Plagiarism-free papers

Our papers are 100% original and unique to pass online plagiarism checkers.


Well-researched academic papers

Even when we say essays for sale, they meet academic writing conventions.

24/7 support

24/7 online support

Hit us up on live chat or Messenger for continuous help with your essays.


Easy communication with writers

Order essays and begin communicating with your writer directly and anonymously.