Different Exam Types – Different Approaches

OK, let’s talk types of exams:

exam typesLove them or hate them, they play the major role in deciding your final grade. While many students feel that they are an unfair way to measure how much knowledge or expertise they have gained in their chosen area of study, exams are here to stay and so we might as well get used to that fact.

So if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them, at least for as long as it takes you to get out of there with the degree you deserve. Academia, like most things in life, follows a set course of systems and procedures in order to derive an end result. Just like a driving instructor wants you to drive in a certain way, universities and lecturers want you to learn in a certain way, and it just so happens this involves spitting out all you can recall about a given subject in 1 hour and thirty minutes. So much for personalised learning!

So, we at Examtime, want to take the fear factor out of exams for you. Exams should not be difficult if you have a revision plan, have practiced exam questions and have made an attempt on the reading list.

While we are not going to tell you today how to study, it is useful to understand that the exam type you are revising today may require your to learn differently than the exam type you are studying for tomorrow. The main types of exams that you will have to complete are:

  1. Essay exams
  2. Multiple choice exams
  3. Open-book and take-home exams
  4. Problem or case-based exams
  5. Oral exams

The various different methods of examination need somewhat contrasting revision methods. There are many online resources for third level students that exist now, that can really help with online study and exam revision. We have previously mentioned on Examtime using Mind Maps to help with exam revision, but there are literally hundreds of other methods out there that you can try.

So there are lots of options open to you but let’s now look now more specifically at how you can revise for the different types of exams we have listed above.

Essay Exam Tips

This type of exam is old school; your great granddad most likely had to do these exams, so they have been around for a while. The first thing to mention to anyone about to sit an exam like this in university is that you should have some idea of the structure and the content of the essay before you begin to write it.

You should also stop writing when you run out of things to say, and not just write to fill up another page. Trust us, an examiner will not happy if they have to read through pages of gobbledygook at the end of your essay. A shorter, more succinct, answer won’t lose you marks. It may in fact gain you ones!

Multiple Choice Exam Tips

Another common type of exam that you may have to complete comprises of multiple choice questions or MCQ’s as they are known. These exams really test your ability to recall and connect the correct information to the question. As you usually have to pick the correct answer from a series of statements it simulates a more real life situation where you would have a number of choices and need to choose the correct one.

The best advice for studying for these types of exams is to attend every lecture, and over the course of a year you automatically will begin to connect in your own mind the best answer to the MCQ’s you take in the summer. Also online tools such as study flash cards can help you create content that is easy to access.

Open Book and Take Home Exam Tips

Open book and take home exams are slightly more unusual as they don’t require you to revise in the same way as a more traditional exam. However, because you have access to your notes and to your text books the examiners are obviously going to expect much more detail and content than they would in a closed book exam. A good idea before you start an exam like this would be to have all your relevant notes and texts organised, all in one place before you begin the exam. As there is no point in having an open book exam if you can’t find the right book on the day of the exam!

Problem or Case Based Exam Tips

Problem or cased based exams are really designed to test your analytical skills, and how well you can evaluate, respond and deal with certain problem or situation. These types of exams are supposed to be simulations of a possible real life situation. The exams test the way in which your brain works rather than how much information you know. After all you could be an expert on the theory of brain surgery, but you might have no idea how to practically carry it out it.

In some regards this type of exam is really testing how well you can think on your feet, and how skilled you are at applying your knowledge to a specific set of circumstances. If you just write down everything you know in a list, you will fail this type of exam, as that is not what examiners in this type of exam are looking for.

Oral Exam Tips

Now, all you language students out there will be very familiar with the oral exam. Most of us still get sweaty palms thinking about our GCSE French oral exam. However the reason second level students find oral exams so difficult is that they lack the confidence to show the examiner what they know. A bit of revision will help here as well.

To be honest with you, the best way to revise for a language oral exam is to spend three or four months in the country of the language you will be tested on. After all, your friends and family may want to help you, but their level of Japanese is not going to cut the mustard when it comes to exam time. If you can’t afford the time or the money to go to the country in question, bring the country to you. Most major cities have many thriving foreign communities, go and seek them out, make some friends, and pass those exams!

So that’s it. We can lead a horse to water but we can’t make it drink and all that! We hope this post has been informative so please let us know if you think it has. And as always, remember your first point of contact for any questions you have about your exams should be your university or school.

To give yourself that extra edge for Exam preparation, why not try ExamTime, our custom built software that will help you plan, manage, understand and learn. Sign up here to get started, it’s free!


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