Here are some things that I can offer as suggestions:
- Read the instructions! For example, if I am giving short answer type questions, I always include the words "using complete sentences" in the instructions. Many professors will take off points if they ask for sentences and get fragments. Likewise, for true/false questions, I always ask for people to write out "true" or "false". This way I don't get a letter that is a combination of a T and an F.
- Answer the questions as asked. When a question asks "Discuss xxxxxxx", what the professor is looking for is NOT a list. For example, if I asked "Discuss three sandwiches", I wouldn't expect the answer would be "peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, eggplant". If I simply wanted three answers, I would likely say something like "List three sandwiches" or "Name three sandwiches". When a professor asks a student to "discuss" or "describe", they are looking for more information.When a professor asks "compare and contrast X and Y", this is going to require two separate parts to your answer. First should be a comparison of X and Y (how they are similar) and second should be contrasting of X and Y (how they are different). If I asked you to compare and contrast baseball and football, the correct answer would not be a definition of baseball, followed by a definition of football. Instead, a correct answer would include a comparison (for example, baseball and football are both team sports, both are played in stadiums, etc), followed by contrasting (while baseball has nine players on the field at a time from one team, football has eleven, baseball uses a circular ball that is struck with a bat while football uses an oblong ball that is thrown and kicked).
- Be on time and ready to go! If you get there on time, you will get your choice of seat and have the chance to relax before the test starts. I remember I was 45 minutes late for a final once, and I was overly stressed for that reason. I personally also schedule tests to have a set time frame, for example, one hour. If a student shows up 30 minutes late, they now have only 30 minutes to complete the test. Also, take care of any bathroom-type business before the test starts. Many professors do not allow bathroom breaks during tests, because there is potential for cheating.