Using Higher-Order Questions 

Exam Preparation: Think Like a Professor: Effective exam preparation involves more than strategizing for particular test formats, such as multiple-choice or essay. Commonly referred to as “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” the framework outlined below has remained popular with teachers and students alike since the publication of Taxonomy of Educational Objectives in 1956 and its revision in 2001 as A Taxonomy for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. After you read through the categories, try to complete the practice activity below.


Question Categories

The following categories can help you assess your comprehension of readings, lecture notes, and other course materials. By creating and answering questions from a variety of categories, you can better anticipate and prepare for all types of exam questions.

Remember: For recall of foundational or factual information: names, dates, formulas, definitions, components, or methods. Study methods include:

  • Make flashcards
  • Draw diagrams

Understand: To demonstrate knowledge at a deeper level; typically this requires a significant investment of time, thought, or a varied approach to a subject. Study methods include:

  • Discuss content with a partner
  • Consider the underling objectives of homework, not just the answers
  • Focus on “why” questions

Apply To recognize or use concepts in real- world situations. To address when, where, or how to employ methods and ideas. Study methods include:

  • Seek concrete examples of abstract ideas
  • Work practice problems and exercises

Analyze: To break topic or idea into components or examine a subject from different perspectives. You want to shift from “whole” to “parts.” Study methods include:

  • Generate a list of contributing factors
  • Take alternate approaches

Synthesize: To consider individual elements together for the purpose of drawing conclusions, identifying themes, or determining common elements. Here you want to shift from “parts” to “whole.” Study methods include:

  • Generalize information from lectures and readings
  • Condense and re-state content in one or two sentences
  • Compare and contrast

EvaluateTo  form an opinion, assign value, develop an argument, or judge merit. Often there is not a clear or correct answer to this type of question. What do you think and how do you support your position? Study methods include:

  1. Make note of your reactions as you read and study
  2. Decide if you like, dislike, agree, or disagree with an author or a decision
  3. Consider what you would do if asked to make a choice

Create: To design, invent, offer alternative solutions, or combine elements into a new pattern. Study methods include:

  • Build a model
  • Design an experiment

Practice What You Learned

Classify each test question below by the type of question described in tab one. Assume that lectures and course materials didn’t supply direct answers to questions 1-7. Answers are on the right side of this page.

  1. Explain the effects of inflation, political instability, and recession on the price of gold. ______________
  2. Do you consider the protagonist a hero? Defend your answer. ______________
  3. Using natural selection theory, explain why we might not see any new Puriri trees in the future. ______________
  4. Outline an alternative system to the electoral college. Your proposal must be original. ______________
  5. Why does the federal government collect taxes rather than print money as needed? ______________
  6. What do stage theories have in common? ______________
  7. What is an oligopoly? ______________

Need Additional Help? 

The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both peer tutoring and academic coaching can help you work towards your language goals. Peer tutors help you review and understand course content, and our academic coaches can help you:

  • Create an effective and realistic study plan
  • Decide how you want to use the strategies described in this handout
  • Stay on-track with your study plans

Download PDF: Think Like A Professor

REMEMBER: The UNC Learning Center is a great resource! Both Peer Tutoring and Academic Coaching can help you create a balanced approach to succeeding at Carolina. Our friendly staff is ready to help – drop by or make an appointment!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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