Feedback on Exam 1b, Spring 2004

Good answers to the essay questions paid careful attention to the instructions at the top of the study guide/exam sheet: "Be sure to include plenty of illustrative detail wherever possible from the reader (Brians: Reading About the World, from the images shown in class, and from the lectures as well as from your history textbook (Duiker). Answers based only on Duiker will not receive full credit. Answers must demonstrate not only that you've done your homework, but that you understand what you've learned well enough to discuss it."

Poor answers ignored the reader, or simply named examples without discussing them or including details revealing an understanding of their significance.

1. Discuss the different uses for writing which are exemplified in the readings we have done so far from Reading About the World. Cite at least five examples total, and explain what each reading tells us about the culture which produced it (do not skip this part of the answer). Out of the total of five, discuss at least three different uses for literature, and use writings from at least three different cultures. Do not use examples from Duiker. Examples of writing which werenot in our reader: instructions for assembling a machine, party invitations, letters to the editor. These should give you and idea of what is meant by "uses for writing."

Most people who answered this question did well. Some people supplied more than five examples, which was a good idea in case one or two didn't work out well. Uses for writing included: laws, history, epics, love poetry, hymns, myths, etc. This was a good choice because it gave you the widest possible choice of examples to draw on, plus of course it drew on your core textbook: Reading About the World.

2. Explain why or why not you think you would have enjoyed living in ancient Egypt. Include in your answer art, architecture, customs, beliefs, literature. Give at least five specific examples. Do not include items that are common to all civilizations.

First off, all names of nations and peoples must be capitalized at all times: "Egypt" and "Egyptians"--not "egypt" and "egyptians." And the word is spelled "pharoah."

To get full credit for this answer you had to include at least one selection from the reader (see instructions in this first paragraph of this page), most often in the "literature" selection, though the reader could also be used to illustrate "beliefs," and some people did that. Talking about the myth of Osiris' death and resurrection with the help of Isis didn't count for this section since that isn't retold in the actual "Hymn to Osiris" in the reader (though it is mentioned in my introductory note, and in Duiker). You had to show that you had read and understood the hymn itself to get credit for that selection. Some people either ignored this section altogether or treated the question as if it were asking about "writing"--i.e., hieroglyphics--instead of poems, etc. which had been written by Egyptians. Ignoring this section of the question lost answers a full point.

To get credit for the art part of the essay you had to describe briefly at least one specific work of art, not just generally talk about how Egyptian art was beautiful and vivid. The best answers went beyond the standard pharoah portraits and drew on material shown in class, not limiting themselves to images in Duiker: Akhenaton's gold mummy case portrait, the couple sowing and plowing in the fields, the women playing a board game, the picture of various kinds of occupations, images of the various gods, the women musicians and dancers. Quite a few people used the portrait of Hatshepsut or the scene of the judgement of the dead by Osiris. Especially good were mentions of the radical change in artistic style during the Amarna period under Akhnaton when realism was in vogue and the portrait of Nefertiti was done. Two impressive answers went into detail about how Egyptian art combines profile and frontal views--something I didn't discuss in lecture but which Duiker mentions. Answers which implied that all Egyptian art is the same in style or was limited only to pharoah portraits demonstrated a lack of knowledge of lecture material on these points. Nobody mentioned the pictures of Nubians in Egyptian art, though there is one printed in Duiker that might have reminded you of the ones I showed you in class.

Answers about architecture needed to go beyond simply mentioning the pyramids to giving a few details about them. One person mentioned the video clip about the step pyramid of Zoser--a plus. Discussions of how the pillars of the temple at Karnak were painted like tree trunks or influenced Minoan and Greek temple columns were good.

It didn't matter whether you liked or disliked polytheism if you chose to discuss that under "beliefs," but it was crucial to name and briefly characterize one or more of the gods. Almost all ancient cultures were polytheistic, so just referring to that fact didn't make for a good answer (see the last sentence of the questions). Similarly, arranged marriages were not a good choice for "customs" because that too was standard in most ancient civilizations. Good answers drew on women's roles, and went beyond what Duiker had to say about jobs and property rights to illustrate women's assertiveness from the love poetry in the reader. Lots of people wrote about life after death, but the best ones talked about mummification and reincarnation specifically. Several noted the love of Egyptians for life reflected in the varied art found in tombs which depicts the life to come as a continuation of the best aspects of earthly life now.

Study tips from an earlier class:

What helped me study was going through all the answers, writing them down, then reading them out loud over and over, then having people read them back to me.

I liked studying in little study groups with people that I knew. We could all help each other with quizzes and tips.

I found it very helpful to pretend I was taking the test. Sounds funny, but I wrote out all the answers with a time limit (one minute per short answer, 20 per essay).

The study session worked pretty well, and going over the questions with my friend helped a lot. (Lots of people worked in groups.)

I found it helpful to go over the questions from the past readings. I also just read past passages in the book, just to review.

I made flash cards, wrote out short answer questions twice, wrote out all essay questions to practice.

I found that it is better to read over your notes after class each day, rather than putting it off.

Found answers but didn't spend enough time memorizing them.

While I was studying for this exam. I found that I ran across a lot of information that I had missed during the daily readings and lectures. I gained detailed knowledge.

I really underestimated how much I needed to study! I need to do much better next time.

I liked having the study guide early. I worked on doing the questions the first couple of days and then I reviewed a little bit every day after.

The only thing I would have done different would have been to start sooner.

When I studied alone, I found that I remembered the information better when I talked out loud, like I was explaining the answers to a group of people. It may sound wierd, but it works.

I totally forgot about the exam for this class, my other class, and my mythology class group presentation until last night at about 6:00 PM. I am currently running on virtually no sleep. I wouldn't recommend anyone do this. It is really stupid and will ruin your grade.

I found that this test was much more difficult to study for than the previous test. However, it was very helpful using the study guide and looking back through my lecture notes.

I feel that this went faster/easier than the other exam. I studied & read the materials which is a good sign.

Looking up everything all over again, and writing notes for it. What didn't work is not starting earlier.

Don't try to memorize answers in essay form. Outline the main points you will cover and memorize those; then you can elaborate when you get to the test.

While doing my reading, I labelled the page numbers on the top. So, by just skimming through my notes and seeing where in the book I got the information, I could flip to the exact section in the book and get extra information for my answers.

Study in a quiet place with no distractions. This will allow you to soak up what you're reading much easier.

The thing that I liked about studying for the test is that the essay questions were heavily related. Even though the answers were not the same, the info you found for one you could use in the other questions for back up on your writing.

Looking back, I would have spent more time re-reading/looking over the passages in the reader.

Added suggestions by Paul Brians:

The approach of "getting the answers and memorizing them" may seem obvious, but it's not in fact what teachers want. The only way to be really prepared for a test like this is to work to understand the material as you encounter it in assignments. If you have a clear grasp of what Greek civilization was like, it's easy to plug in examples. If you're memorizing the examples in isolation from their context, at the last minute, just before the test, they aren't going to mean much to you and they won't stick in your brain, and you won't be able to recall them as you write. Essay exams are designed to find out who really understands the material. No amount of last-minute studying can make up for that steady, day-to-day mastering of the material: and that's deliberate.

Doing all your studying just before the test is almost always a big mistake--even if you spend the whole weekend at it. For one thing, you won't be able to get back to me or the TA with questions about the study guide if you haven't looked at it until the last minute.

Studying in big blocks of time is usually counter-productive. Try to vary the assignments you work on and break your study time up into shorter intervals, no more than an hour on any one task. Try different techniques, don't just keep doing the same thing over and over. Your brain gets fatigued and refuses to soak up the information.

Try to care about the answers to the essay questions. If you can find things you can really relate to in these cultures, you'll find them much easier to remember and write about. Look for images, readings, etc. that have a strong effect on you.

Resources on how to study for this class:

"Lisa Simpson Studies for her World Civilizations Exam."
See also "Helpful Hints for Improving Performance in this Class."

If, after reading these pages, you still do not understand your grade, then contact me about essay questions or Meghan about short-answer questions.

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