Study Skills: Preparation Tips for Short Answer Tests (2022)

Study Skills: Preparation Tips for Short Answer Tests (1)

Most tests contain at least a few short answer questions. The following are proven study and test preparation strategies that will help improve your performance on short answer/essay questions and tests.

  • Study for understanding.
    Teachers, professors and instructors typically give short answer and/or essay tests to see how well students have grasped course concepts, their meanings and significance. This has both pros and cons with respect to test preparation and performance. The con is that you can't just just memorize information and expect to do well on a short answer test – you must understand course material and concepts. The pro is that even if you can't remember a specific term, as long as you have a general understanding of the concept in question, you can still develop an answer that is likely to get you full or partial credit. When preparing for short answer tests focus on understanding rather than memorization of facts.
  • Focus on topics and concepts.
    As with all types of test questions, the best way to prepare is by studying and becoming intimately familiar with course content, concepts and material. During lectures, try to decipher what types of topics and concepts will be covered on the test by looking for hints provided by the professor. While it's still important to memorize facts and information, try and do so within the framework of important topics that are being explored and concepts that are being taught.
  • Employ self testing.
    Make a guess as to what types of concepts will be covered on a test and create some practice questions to prepare yourself for the test. If accessible, study from previous class tests.
  • Use flashcards.
    Many students benefit by creating flashcards. On one side of a card, write definitions or other facts, and on the opposite side, write the definition.
  • If in doubt, make an educated guess.
    If you are completely unsure about a question, make an educated guess since there is usually no penalty for doing so. Show your work because teachers often provide partial credit if work is shown. Make sure the work you show is accurate.
  • Answer the easy questions first.
    When encountering confusing questions, move on to easier ones. Return to tackle more challenging questions once you've answered all the questions for which you know the answer. In some cases, you can decipher clues to answers for difficult questions from questions you've already answered.
  • Read all instructions.
    It's critical to carefully read instructions for each short answer question. What exactly is the question asking you? Often short answer questions will ask you to describe, list, compare, contrast, identify, analyze, summarize, or a combination of these. If you describe when you're supposed to compare, or summarize when you've been instructed to analyze, your test performance is going to decrease.
  • Budget your time.
    With short answer/essay tests it's easy to lose track of time. At the beginning of the test check to see how many questions on the test and if the test is divided up into sections. Make sure to allocate a specific amount of time per section and per question. You don't want to get halfway through the test and realize you only have a few minutes left. Some short answer questions may be worth substantially more than others. Make sure to allocate time to those questions that are worth the most.
  • Reread each question.
    Always reread the question after answering it. It's not uncommon for a short answer question to have multiple parts. For example: "Compare and contrast Frye's and Bartky's accounts of social oppression with respect to gender inequality. List the differences in their views." Answering only part of the short answer question will likely result in only partial credit.
  • Ask for clarification.
    If you don't understand a question or find it is a bit confusing, ask your instructor for clarification. Don't be scared to ask. Chances are there are several other students who are struggling to understand it as well.
  • Be thorough. But be concise.
    While opinions may differ, most teachers believe a short answer question typically requires a "short" answer. That doesn't mean an answer lacking depth analysis or information. It simply means an answer that is concise and includes just enough information to accurately and fully answer the question being asked. Typically an answer that's longer than necessary isn't going to cause you to lose points, as long as your information is correct. However, if you include incorrect information in your short answer, you'll likely lose points.

The 6 Basic Types of Short-answer Questions

There are six basic types of short-answer questions. Understanding each will improve your performance on short-answer quizzes, tests and exams. When answering short-answer questions, make sure the format and type of answer you provide matches the type of question being asked.

  • Question: "What is a supply curve?"
  • Answer: "A supply curve shows the relationship between the price of a good or service and the quantity supplied. Typically, the price appears on the left vertical axis and the quality supplied on the horizontal axis."

2. Explanation questions.

Explanation questions require you to explain why something is true or how something functions.

  • Question: "Why is the supply curve upward-sloping for most goods and services?"
  • Answer: "The supply curve is upward-sloping because as the price the market pays increases for goods and services the volume that suppliers are willing to produce increases."

3. Example questions.

Example questions simply require a specific real-world example of a concept or phenomenon.

(Video) 7 Tips and Strategies for Answering Multiple Choice Questions | Test Taking Strategies
  • Question: "Provide two examples of pairs of goods that are substitutes."
  • Answer: "Margarine and butter, and tea and coffee are examples of pairs of goods that are substitutes."

4. Relationship questions.

Relationship questions require you to state or show how two or more things relate to one another. Are they complementary? Are they the same? Are they different? Are they opposites? How does the existence of one affect the other? Etc. Relationship questions can be a bit more challenging than other types of short answers but are very doable if you're prepared.

  • Question: "In a competitive market, what is the relationship between supply and demand?"
  • Answer: "Demand refers to the quality of a good or service consumers are willing to buy at a given price. Supply represents the quantity of a good supplied by producers at various prices. The price resulting from where supply and demand meet is referred to as the equilibrium price."

5. Calculation questions.

As the name suggests, calculations questions require you to calculate or compute a numerical answer or response.

(Video) How to Predict Test Questions | LBCC Study Skills
  • Question: "If the demand for used motorcycle purchases in the United States is represented by P = 1000 - .2Q and the supply of used motorcycles is represented by P = 400 + .2Q what is the market equilibrium price and quantity?"
  • Answer: "The market equilibrium price (P) is 700. The market equilibrium quantity (Q) is 1,500."
  • Question: "Draw a diagram of a supply curve that shows the relationship between quantity supplied and price."
  • The answer is shown below.

Study Skills: Preparation Tips for Short Answer Tests (2)

(Video) 5 Rules (and One Secret Weapon) for Acing Multiple Choice Tests

Short-answer versus Short Essay Questions

Students often confuse short-answer questions with short essay questions. While these two question forms share some common characteristics, they are different. The following are the differences between short answer questions and essay questions that students need to know for test taking.


  • Short Answer: Someone who assigned the material (teacher, professor, etc.) who has an expert level of the information.
  • Short Essay: Someone who has never read or seen the assigned material or topic.

Level of expertise

  • Short Answer: Assumes that the reader of the answer is an expert. The reader of the short answer is checking the knowledge of the author of the answer against a specific standard.
  • Short Essay: Assumes the reader is not familiar or educated on the topic being addressed. As part of the essay an overview should be provided.

Length of answer

  • Short Answer: Typically, very short--no more than 3 to 4 sentences. The more concise the better.
  • Short Essay: Answer may vary in length, but ranges from 200-800 words or more.


  • Short Answer: Typically comes from a very narrow arena of fact-based knowledge. Details and examples provided in answers are usually limited to assigned/required readings.
  • Short Essay: Even though the short essay typically focuses on one specific issue or topic, the information presented in the essay may come from a variety of sources.

Answer format

(Video) Study Skills and Test Preparation

  • Short Answer: The answer format for a short answer will usually be a single sentence or paragraph. Short answers are concise and word selection is important to maximize effect.
  • Short Essay: The answer format for short essays, unlike short answers, includes at minimum three paragraphs: the introduction; the body; and the conclusion. The introduction provides a general overview. The body provides the detail of the essay and varies from 1-8 paragraphs (200-800+ words). The conclusion is the wrap-up of the essay and reiterates the main points being communicated. It may also suggest an action.
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How do you structure a short answer response? ›

Begin each answer with one or two sentence thesis which summarizes your answer. If possible, phrase the statement so that it rephrases the question's essential terms into a statement (which therefore directly answers the essay question).

How can I study for a test quickly? ›

How can I memorize my answers fast? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

How do I study for a 10 minute test? ›

Here's how to make the most of your cram session and study for your test in an hour or less.
  1. Find a Quiet Study Space.
  2. Review Your Study Guide.
  3. Crack Open the Textbook.
  4. Review Notes, Quizzes and Assignments.
  5. Quiz Yourself.
  6. Write Down Your Mnemonic Devices.
  7. Ask the Teacher for Help.
11 Sept 2018

What are the 3 elements of a short response? ›

The most important elements to a short answer response (one-paragraph answer) are (1) the answer, (2) the evidence, and (3) the explanation.

What is the format of short answer questions? ›

In a short answer question, the student types in a word or phrase in response to a question (that may include an image). Answers may or may not be case sensitive. The answer could be a word or a phrase, but it must match one of your acceptable answers exactly.

How do you handle a short answer question? ›

The key to successfully answering any short answer question is to understand that less is more. Responses most likely to make a good impression are those that avoid redundancy and clichés and instead provide clear and concise answers that are candid, creative, and even humorous.

What are the 3 secret study tips? ›

3 Secret Study Tips
  • Know what your lecturers want. Before you start studying a topic, write down your lecturer's learning objectives for that topic. ...
  • Make a study plan. Many people waste time when they study because they don't have a plan. ...
  • Use effective study techniques.

What is the trick of study? ›

Take breaks

Taking a five-minute break to walk around or check your email will actually help your brain to process all of the information that you've been studying. (Pro tip: If you're studying on the computer, take a break every 25 minutes to give your eyes a break.

How can I study so fast without forgetting? ›

Now let's look at some of the ways research shows you can remember more and forget less:
  1. Drink coffee to improve memory consolidation. ...
  2. Meditate to improve working memory.
  3. Eat berries for better long-term memory.
  4. Exercise to improve memory recall.
  5. Chew gum to make stronger memories.
  6. Sleep more to consolidate memories.

What are 10 test taking tips? ›

Test-Taking Tips
  • First, be sure you've studied properly. ...
  • Get enough sleep the night before the test. ...
  • Listen closely to any instructions. ...
  • Read the test through first. ...
  • Focus on addressing each question individually. ...
  • Relax. ...
  • Finished already?

What are the secrets of topper? ›

Topper's Productivity Secrets - 7 Tips with 100% Accuracy
  • 1) Short study duration. ...
  • 2) Sticking to the study plan. ...
  • 3) Seek to understand, not memorise. ...
  • 4) Switch between focused and divergent thinking. ...
  • 5) Spending more time on practice than on reading. ...
  • 6) Use learning tools to prepare.

How can I study smart? ›

Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder
  1. Reading is not studying. Simply reading and re-reading texts or notes is not actively engaging in the material. ...
  2. Understand the Study Cycle. ...
  3. Spacing out is good. ...
  4. It's good to be intense. ...
  5. Silence isn't golden. ...
  6. Problems are your friend. ...
  7. Reconsider multitasking. ...
  8. Switch up your setting.

How can I memorize 30 minutes fast? ›

Six Brain Hacks To Learn Anything Faster
  1. Teach Someone Else (Or Just Pretend To) ...
  2. Learn In Short Bursts of Time. ...
  3. Take Notes By Hand. ...
  4. Use The Power of Mental Spacing. ...
  5. Take A Study Nap. ...
  6. Change It Up.
30 Aug 2016

What is the 10 50 rule for studying? ›

For every 50 minutes spent focusing on studying or working, allow yourself a 10-minute break. Building in a 10-minute break into every hour will help you avoid burning out, cut down on distractions, help you digest new information, and will typically help you be more productive during designated work time.

What should I do 1 hour before an exam? ›

Top tips to prepare for exams
  1. Use your moments wisely. The few minutes before you switch off the light is a fantastic time for memorisation. ...
  2. Eat a great meal. Make a special effort to cook yourself a decent meal. ...
  3. Laugh. ...
  4. Make sure you wake up. ...
  5. Know when to stop. ...
  6. Use the space. ...
  7. Don't drink too much. ...
  8. Do what works for you.

What should I do 5 minutes before an exam? ›

Make a list of important details. Depending on the subject, make a quick list of important dates, characters, plot points, or formulae. Anything that you can take from memory will be a helpful review in five minutes.

How do you write a good answer? ›

Here are some tips to write the perfect answer that will get you full marks.
  1. Read all questions carefully. ...
  2. Good handwriting. ...
  3. Structure your answer. ...
  4. Use simple language. ...
  5. Don't write everything you know. ...
  6. Review your answers thoroughly. ...
  7. Choose questions wisely. ...
  8. Attempt all the questions.

How do you write a short-answer essay? ›

Write your answer as quickly and legibly as possible. Don't plan on rewriting your essay – there is rarely enough time to do anything but proof your answer. Start your answer by rewriting the question as a thesis statement. A well‐written thesis statement answers the question directly.

What is a short-answer test? ›

What is a short-answer exam? On a short-answer exam you are asked to provide a concise, yet thorough, written answer to a question, usually using complete sentences. These exams test your ability to integrate what you've learned in the lectures, readings, and discussions, and to apply that knowledge.

What are the two types of short answer questions? ›

To cope with short-answer exams, you first need to identify what you are being asked. In general, there are two types of short-answer exam questions: factual (i.e. testing memory work) and interpretive (i.e. testing your ability to apply learnt concepts).

What is short answer type test example? ›

Short answer questions tend to be short, and have more precise answers, thus, it is possible for each question to list out all the possible answers/points. For example, if there are 6 possible arguments to a question, and the student scores all 6 arguments, he will get full mark in that question.

What are 5 study tricks? ›

5 Study Tips to Set You Up for Success
  • Find a Go-To Study Location. For starters, find a quiet, well-lit area that is available to you whenever you need to study. ...
  • Avoid the Stress of Cramming by Using a Spaced Study Session Method. ...
  • M N E M O N I C S. ...
  • Simple Self-Testing Practice. ...
  • Learn, Relearn, and Learn Again.
25 Apr 2018

Which time is best for study? ›

Most of the students prefer to study in the early morning, generally from 4 or 5 AM in the morning as the brain is more likely to concentrate. It could be the best option for students who have more stamina early in the day.

How can I get 100 concentration in studies? ›

So, to help you make the most out of your study time, here are six tips to improve concentration:
  1. Identify the best environment to help you concentrate. ...
  2. Minimize distractions. ...
  3. Write a to-do list. ...
  4. Schedule study time. ...
  5. Make healthy snack choices. ...
  6. Take breaks.

How can I pass but not study? ›

12 Study Hacks to pass exams without studying
  1. Find the right workplace.
  2. Make the most use of your time.
  3. Assemble your requirements properly to avoid distractions.
  4. Compile all your notes.
  5. Avoid cramming for long hours. Take breaks!
  6. Prioritize and work accordingly.
  7. Talk to someone around you.
  8. Plan as per your requirement.

Why do I forget what I studied? ›

The human brain occupies a fascinating evolutionary in-between of remembering and forgetting. In many cases, we keep only the gist of our the expense of holding onto specific details. In fact, forgetting can be attributed to the presence of interfering memories and the fading of memories.

Why I forget what I have studied? ›

Lack of Revision

Students generally tend to forget the content during the examination if he has burnt the midnight oil at the last minute. With a regular schedule of study and appropriate revision, the retaining capacity of the brain improves and the content is embedded in a much deeper manner.

How can I learn big answers in 5 minutes? ›

  1. Read the whole answer only to understand .
  2. Don't think of memorising in one go.
  3. Break the question in parts( as many u wish.. ...
  4. Now go through one part and learn it loudly.
  5. Now check whether u have learnt by hiding the answer.
  6. If yes: repeat process 4 and 5 till u complete the answer.
  7. If not: try to learn again and again.

How can I improve my test skills? ›

5 Ways to Improve Your Testing Skills
  1. Introduction.
  2. Learn to Plan.
  3. Read - a Lot. Reading Develops mind. Discover new things with Reading. ...
  4. Keep a Work Journal.
  5. Learn to Write Detailed Bug Reports.
  6. Learn a Programming Language.
  7. More Ways to Improve Testing Skills. Sharing is Caring. There are no stupid questions.
18 Feb 2019

How do you pass a 100 test? ›

5 Proven Tips on How to Score 100 Marks in Math Exams
  1. Strategizing and Time Management.
  2. Practice With Mock Tests.
  3. Create a Formula Notebook.
  4. Positive Attitude.
  5. Strategies to Follow During the Exam.
29 Mar 2022

What 3 things make a test a good test? ›

Roy Osherove adds that good tests have three fundamental properties: maintainable, trustworthy and readable.

Can a dull student become topper? ›

This is the most primary difference between a topper and an average student, the secondary differences are their approach towards a particular work and the motivation to do it. So anyone can become a topper by devoting the proper amount of time and dedicated efforts to become one.

How many hours study a topper? ›

According to the experts, a candidate should spend at least 6 to 8 hours daily on their studies, if they wish to crack the exam with good marks. Applicants can make changes in the number of hours, as per their need and convenience. But, they have to be devoted towards their studies.

How do Toppers memorize? ›

It is said that toppers spend more time practicing for effective learning. You have to inculcate the habit of practicing as it can improve your performance in recalling the information during the exam. It is better to take mock, practice and revision tests for better preparation.

What is the best study habit? ›

Good study habits include finding a quiet location to study, taking breaks, settings goals, and taking practice tests. Here's the full list, and the psychological reasons why they work.

How do you study for a 5 minute test? ›

How to Study for Five Minutes Before a Test
  1. Relaxing and Staying Focused.
  2. Skimming and Memorizing.
  3. Asking a Friend to Review with You.

How do you study for the last minute test? ›

Last Minute Exam Revision Tips
  1. Same old, same old… ...
  2. Get up early and get going. ...
  3. Ask those around you for help. ...
  4. Review summaries, rather than full notes. ...
  5. Turn off the technology. ...
  6. Avoid stress—including in other people. ...
  7. Consider taking a longer break: the whole afternoon and evening off. ...
  8. Get everything ready for the morning.

How do I study for a fill in the blank test? ›

At the bottom of the paper containing your sentence (or on a separate page), make a list of the key words and phrases. This will serve as your key. Read over your sentences and attempt to fill in the blanks with correct answers in very light pencil. Consult your notes when necessary.

What is the 15-minute rule for studying? ›

Follow the “15-minute rule”

This is where the 15-minute rule comes in: Take 15 minutes to solve the problem any way you can. If you don't have an answer after 15 minutes, you must ask someone.

How can I study faster without forgetting? ›

Regardless of when you choose to study, you will retain more information if you study a bit each day (for 30 to 60 minutes at a time) rather than cramming at the last minute. Remember to incorporate breaks into your study schedule. Breaks give your brain a chance to absorb what you just studied.

How can I get full marks in every test? ›

To get higher marks in your exams, take thorough notes in your classes so you can use them to study. Also, try to study for at least 30 minutes every day leading up to your exams so you memorize the material. Avoid cramming for your tests the night before or you could overload your brain and forget everything.

Why do I blank out while studying? ›

When we experience short-term stress as a result of test anxiety, our brain activates a fight or flight response. This affects memory by inhibiting the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of our brain responsible for retrieval. As a result, we can not remember, during that moment, what we learned previously.

Why do I get blank while studying? ›

What Causes Blank Out? Blanking out and panicking during an exam can stem from various sources, but I find that the primary causes are a lack of adequate sleep (usually from staying up all night trying to cram information into your head) and a lack of confidence.


1. 3 Last Minute Test Taking Strategies that WORK! | Exam and Test Prep
(2 Minute Classroom)
2. How To REMEMBER FOR TESTS | LBCC Study Skills
(Long Beach City College)
3. How to Study Effectively for School or College [Top 6 Science-Based Study Skills]
(Memorize Academy)
4. MBLEx Test Prep Podcast Ep 16 - Study Skills and Test Techniques
(MBLEx Test Prep)
5. Study Skills - The Best Test Prep Structure
(Learning Strategies Center Cornell)
6. Exam skills: 6 tips to help you with reading exams
(BBC Learning English)

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