Preparation for Short Answer Questions (SAQ) in a Time-Limited Exam

PLEASE NOTE: This information should be read in conjunction with the Preparation for Online Time-Limited Exams

Short answer questions examine both knowledge and understanding of a topic. You are required to know the concepts that you have studied and their application. It gives you an opportunity to showcase what you know and how to apply it, providing examples as you go, when required.  

There is no generic structure to short answer questions. They can take multiple forms. This is why it is so important to read the directions that you are given in the exam and follow them.

How to learn for an Online SAQ Exam?

There are several ways in which you can prepare for a short question exam. As with revision in general, you should always use study techniques that suit you and the way you learn. Think about what has/has not worked for you in the past? Which is the most successful method you have used to retain information before? Could you combine a few techniques to create the best study strategy that works for you? Keep the following in mind as you approach your study:

  • Revise for breadth and depth
  • Use bullet point lists for overview answers
  • Study for understanding: Make sure that as you revise and study the course material you are identifying and engaging with the course concepts and their use
  • Start with your lecture slides and the material that has been provided on Canvas
  • Prepare examples: Use past exam papers to see the structure of the questions and make out new questions and answers as you revise

Flashcards are an excellent way to test yourself for just a few minutes every day. Try this method: 

  • Write out key concept terms on one side of a flashcard and a precise definition on the back
  • You can also use to create flashcards online if you don’t want to use paper cards
  • Take a few minutes every morning to read through them and memorise them 
  • Later in the day, to check your memory retention, go back through them. Any key terms you could not remember, place to one side so that you can spend more time revising them later  
  • Remember, until your exam is over you should spend a few minutes doing this every day to ensure you are keeping all definitions fresh in your mind, not just the ones you have identified as ‘blind spots’

Answering SAQ exam questions:

  • Know the rules. Read your instructions carefully. Know the format of the question. Is the question split into 2 or 3 different parts? If so, make sure you answer all the parts!
  • Answer the question asked. Read the question carefully and answer it. Do not substitute the question you would have preferred!
  • Take note of what you are being asked. Do you need to compare? Define? Discuss? Your answer should be factual, detailed, and straight-forward 
  • Be precise. Answer exactly what is needed; there is no room for waffle here! Long answers will not necessarily give you better marks!
  • Strict time-management is a must. Have your exam plan made and stick to it. You will find additional help for your exam plan here in our Time management downloadable handout.
  • Mark the sections clearly in your answer. three-part question must have a three-part answer. Number them 1, 2, 3!
  • Think clearly. If you cannot answer the question, pause, then reflect on the module and what was covered. Reflect on the topic, experiments, formulae or even discussions you have taken part in. Take a breath and revisit the question!

Your exam will be submitted through Turnitin, therefore all normal procedures regarding plagiarism must be observed. Remember also that collusion – cooperating with other people during the exam - is a form of plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism – where you resubmit work previously marked – is also a form of plagiarism.  All forms of plagiarism is considered to be serious academic misconduct.  All suspected forms of plagiarism will be subject to procedures as laid out in the UCC Plagiarism Policy.

Exam related videos from the 'Gimme Two Minutes' series!

The Skills Centre 'Gimme Two Minutes' video series, available for viewing on YouTube, focuses on very basic concepts related to the academic writing and preparation skills, delivered by the University College Cork Skills Centre in a short and visual format. These videos can be used as self-learning tools and give you a taste of what sessions and workshops the Skills Centre offers to UCC students.

Useful videos from the 'Minute Methods' video series

This series is brought to you by the Skills Centre Avatars Joey, Millie, Steve and Eunice. The avatars have spent time with the Skills Centre tutors to create short snappy videos that will help you to develop good study habits and academic writing etiquette, all in just one minute.  

UCC Skills Centre Radio Show: All about exams

Episode Five: All about Exams

This week we are delighted to go through some exam preparation. We are thrilled to welcome Dr Eithne Hunt and Dr Edel Semple to the studio for their advice. Caroline Schroeter, Patricia O’Connor, Loretta Goff, and Kristina Decker welcome Kathy Bradley, Skills Centre Coordinator, back to discuss exam time and the Skills Centre Exam Bootcamp.