Exam Strategies: Problem Solving Exams

Problem-solving exams can come in various formats and include different question types such as multiple-choice, short answer, or long calculations to test your ability to apply the skills and concepts you’ve learned in a course.

Preparing for a problem-solving exam
  • Practice example problems from your lecture notes, textbooks, and assignments and take note of the types of questions that appear frequently. Focus on the process used for solving the problem and how that strategy can apply to potential exam questions.
  • Practice and then practice again! The more problems, and the more types of problems, you solve the better prepared you’ll be for your exam.
  • Review your previous quizzes or exams to be sure you understand where you may have lost marks. Self-test with these types of questions, or study with a partner to create questions and quiz each other.

Answering problem-solving questions
  • Look over the questions and budget your time according to how much each question is worth - try to leave time to review your exam at the end.
  • Before beginning, jot down any equations, concepts, and constants that you may have memorized and need for later questions.
  • Read each question carefully and think about what it is asking you to solve before you answer:
    • Try to identify what concepts or theory the problem is based on
    • Write down all the given information in bullet form
    • Draw a clear diagram with labels, directions, axes, if needed or to help illustrate the problem
    • Write out formulae and expressions you may need
    • Show every step as you work through the problem - even if you don’t get the correct answer, you may get points for your process.
    • Review your work - check your calculations, keep track of units, and check for common sense (e.g. magnitude, dimensions, etc.).

Looking for more strategies and tips?
Check out MUN's Academic Success Centre online!