One of the things that students get most nervous about when it comes to my tests are the extended response questions. These are tougher, students contend, because of the fact that they must make connections. They must be able to spell terminology, provide reasoning, organize their ideas, and present a coherent, succinct message.
My first tip is always to think about Cousin Bubba. I talk about Cousin Bubba (CB) throughout the course; rather than getting caught up in the more technical definitions, I want to see that students can understand and share information at a base level. Explain it to me as though I have never heard of the topic before. You might be surprised how much simplifying an explanation can fully enhance your understanding. Sometimes, we think that if we talk in the elevated terminology, it means we got it. But the more we keep it simple (while actually maintaining the accuracy of the response), the more likely we are to be able to retain the information in our long-term memory.
My second tip is to always use full sentences, unless explicitly instructed to do something else. If we only use bullet points, we may be missing the best chance for us to share information clearly with our audience. They may need a full description, rather than a couple of key words.
My third tip is to answer the question as it is asked. If you are told to give a definition and explain something, then provide those responses. Help yourself (and your instructor) by following directions. With that, if you are asked for examples, tell the instructor how the example connects. Don’t simply state “ex) ____;” rather, Phrase it as a sentence and offer a little connection (help your instructor follow your thought process!).
Finally, I suggest that you make major connections between concepts and ideas. Use the terms from the text, the ideas or concepts we discuss. Then, show how that information relates to other components or topics. Compare and contrast, provide examples (see above). For example, a common thread through our course is the idea of “frame of reference.” If you can connect it to your current response (while still answering the question at hand), then do so. Show how that concept relates to whatever you are discussing.
In our unit 1 test, you might think about how concepts like perception checking, self-concept and self-esteem, ways to respond effectively when listening, or how nonverbal communication alters our messages. HINT. HINT. HINT.