What were the most important themes and ideas in each text

Dr. Peak Exam Preparation Tips The point of any exam is to encourage, or require, students to prepare for it. It is in preparing for exams that you review material so that you have a better chance of remembering it in your future life as an educated person, and it is in preparing for exams that you learn new things you wouldn’t have otherwise. Prepping for the Identifications The single best way to prepare for any exam is to predict ahead of time what the questions will be like. The syllabus already outlines briefly for you what the exam will be like. Here is more detail. Sample question: Identify who is speaking in the following quotation: “To be, or not to be; that is the question.” (Answer: Hamlet.) How to Predict My Questions: Look at the list of readings on the syllabus. Any reading that was due before the date of the exam might be included on the exam. Write those texts down in a list, including titles and authors (if known). If we read multiple texts by the same author (for instance, multiple Socratic dialogues or multiple books of the Bible), list each one separately. As mentioned on the syllabus, I will only ask three kinds of identifications: the name of the text, the name of the author, or the name of the character speaking. Edit your list:

• Are any of the texts anonymous (The Epic of Gilgamesh, for example)? Then you know that for that text I can only ask you about the title or character speaking.

• Do any of the texts lack characters? (For example, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and his Politics are philosophical and political treatises, and don’t have characters.) Then you know that for that text I can only ask you about the title or author.

• What, if any, texts do have characters? (“The Book of Genesis,” for example.) If the text has many characters, which ones show up the most often and are most important? List those characters’ names.

Now edit your list further:

• What were the most important themes and ideas in each text? o This is very important: Are there any areas of overlap? For example, do multiple

texts discuss the role of women, one way or another? These areas of overlap are what make tricky questions possible, for example if I give you a quotation that talks about the role of

women and multiple texts talked about the role of women – that could be tricky. How are you going to deal with such a situation? You will need to be able to predict such tricky moments, and know ahead of time what’s different about the ways that different texts deal with the same themes. If one text always talks about women in religious terms, and another always talks about women in economic terms, then look for word choices in the quotation having to do with religion or economics. Then you will be able to answer the question.

• For the important characters, what were the most important themes and ideas associated with those characters?

o Again, keep an eye out for areas of overlap, as above. Finally, you should memorize: the titles, the names of the authors, if any, and the names of major characters. Spelling does not count, but if you can, you should spell the titles of works correctly, along with the names of authors and characters. It just looks smarter, and that’s how you want to look on an exam. Prepping for the Short Answer Questions These questions will require an answer of about a paragraph. Predicting My Questions Since the questions require brief responses, they must be focused on something fairly specific. They will not be broad, general questions like “Explain how Sigmund Freud’s thought evolved over time from his earliest works in the late 19th century to his final publications in the 1930s.” They might be focused, specific questions like “What does Freud mean by resistance?” They will be questions you can answer thoroughly in a paragraph. To prepare, go back to your list from before, focusing on what you’ve written about the major themes and ideas of each text. Next, edit your list some more: For each major theme or idea, write down at least three bullet points – specific examples or details you could use to explain that theme or idea in a paragraph. Did we, or I, spend a lot of time in class discussing some particular concept? Then add it to the list! That’s it! If you have done this preparation, the in-class exam should be relatively easy. And if you have been reading diligently over the course of the semester, this preparation should be relatively easy. Whether it is or it isn’t, however, preparing for the exam should solidify important concepts and fix them in your memory, while honing your critical thinking skills (a GenEd learning goal) and your ability to summarize texts and “recognize abstractions, large ideas, and implications associated with difficult written texts” (IH learning goal #2). Again, the point of an exam is, or ought to be, what you learn in the course of preparing for it.

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