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How to Study for an Essay Test


How to Study for an Essay Test

How to study for any test

On an essay test, you'll have to go beyond rote memorization of facts. You need to understand the topic 100%, analyze different aspects of the topic, and describe your knowledge coherently. Sounds easy, right? Maybe not, but you CAN do it, so here's what you need to do:

Difficulty: Easy
Time Required: Increments of 45 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Ask for the essay's required length.

    When your teacher tells you it's an essay test, ask these two questions:

    1. Will there be one essay topic or more than one?
    2. What is the approximate length of the response or responses (if more than one)
    Some teachers give essay tests and require one long essay in response to one prompt. Others give essay tests and give two or three (or more) prompts. You'll need to know more facts and details to support your answer/s if your teacher is requiring a long response, so find out.

  2. Ask for the topic.

    Some teachers will tell you what the topic is going to be about to help you prepare. It never hurts to ask! If he or she does tell you the essay topic, then reread the sections in the textbook and notes that coincide with it, underlining anything you don't understand or need to refresh your memory about.

    If you don't know the essay topic beforehand, possible ideas can come from the titles and subtitles of the chapter or chapters you're being tested over. It might be a good idea to make flashcards of the titles/subtitles, listing the title on the front, and important facts and details on the back.

  3. Start studying early.

    It's best to start studying for a test like this in advance. Create a study schedule based on the number of days you have before the test, so you can prepare the most efficiently.

  4. Use mnemonic devices.

    Read through your notes and memorize the details, using mnemonic devices like drawing pictures or creating a song. Some people also find it helpful to rewrite their notes, reorganize their notes, or type them up.

  5. Get a study partner to quiz you.

    To test your knowledge, get someone to ask you random open-ended questions from the textbook or review questions from the end of the chapter. Explain the answers aloud without looking at the text, giving as much detail and support as possible.

  6. Study in 45-minute increments.

    Do not spend three hours studying for a test in a row. Bad, bad, bad. Your mind will overload, and you'll start daydreaming, doodling, or otherwise disengaging from the material. Instead, set a timer for 45 minutes and take a five-ten minute break when it goes off. Head back to studying after the break, though!.

  7. Review the steps for writing an essay if you're required to write a long response, to make sure you don't lose points for clarity issues.


  1. Learn what an essay question might look like. Here are a few examples:
    • Compare and contrast the portrayal of women in Shakespeare's Hamlet and Othello.
    • Explain the parts and functioning of the digestive system
    • Analyze Albert Einstein's theory of relativity
    • Evaluate the contribution of photographers to the artistic world in the 1920's.
    • Describe the power hierarchy of the major Greek gods, beginning with Cronus.

What You Need

  • Your notes
  • Your textbook
  • A pen
  • A highlighter
  • A beverage
  • A snack
  • A timer
  • Quiet!
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  2. Education
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