How to Write a Good Quiz


The quizzes (and exams) in this class are intended as a measure of whether students are:

1.             Keeping abreast of the readings

2.             Grasping the basic concepts

3.             Developing a vocabulary for religious studies

4.             Learning the basic elements of the traditions studies in class

5.             Understanding the approaches to religion that e have studied

6.             Developing a working knowledge of comparative concepts and the ability to use these concepts


Quizzes are not Exams

As you prepare for and take the quizzes, remember that their only purpose is to measure the basics.  I do not expect exam-length responses, but concise, to-the-point answers.  The quizzes are 20 minutes  If you feel extremely rushed, you might be writing too much.  If you have to ruminate for very long to retrieve the basics, you might not know them well enough yet. 


Quizzes include definitions and short answers

Here are a few suggestions and some samples of well-written answers:


A definition need be no longer than two or three lines.  The terms for definition will always be taken from the terms listed in lecture notes or in the main text, with one exception:  occasionally a central term will appear from the reading for the day of the quiz (i.e., if the reading is “Seeing the Sacred” in Hindu religion, the term darsan might appear on the quiz). 


The following are sample responses from past quizzes.  Each one received full points:




·      Dharma refers to the structure of the cosmos and especially society, and to the rules pertaining to it.  A person’s dharma is his duty in life, based on his caste.



·      refers to Rudolf Otto’s idea about religious experience.  The mysterium is the experience of the sacred that is unique to religion.  It is beyond one’s capacity to comprehend in ordinary terms or language.  Otto added to this the ideas of the tremendum and the fascinans.



Short Answer:

Short answers should be 3-5 lines and get to the heart of the question, based on the lecture and/or reading.  You can certainly add more, but points are gained by basics.  Here are a few recent examples:


Q: What are the major features of the Late Vedic traditions?

·       The late Vedic traditions developed between 800-400 BCE.  During that time, Aryan settlements brought about the development of agriculture and urbanization.  The Upanishads emerged during this time with an emphasis on re-interpretation of older texts.  That coincided with the development of ideas of karma and moksha.

·       The late Vedic traditions developed at a time when the Indian civilizations were becoming more urbanized and settling in cities.  Principle texts include the 13 major Upanishads that were written between 800 BCE and 400 BCE.  Also, there was a stronger emphasis on self-attainment and a movement away from ritualized sacrifice by priests.





It would be very difficult to do well on quizzes without careful reading, note-taking (in class and from readings) and review.  Sometimes we don’t get to each of the relevant terms in class, and most quizzes contains something based on the reading for that same day.  Nevertheless, it should be fairly easy and not unduly time- or sleep-consuming to do well on the quizzes.  Here is the formula:

1.    Keep up with the readings, making notes on them as you go

2.    Take careful notes on the lectures and check them against the posted lecture outlines
(which give only the general structure)

3.    Review your reading and lecture notes once or twice before the quiz

4.    Quiz yourself.  This means that you:

a.    Write out definitions to each of the terms

b.    Write out responses to the questions that you anticipate could be on the quiz

c.    Check these responses for accuracy



Finally, please remember this:

·      I will always meet with you to go over a quiz or exam, to talk about the class, anything. 

·      Quizzes help prepare you for the exam.  Be sure to get them back! Check them over and correct them.

·      Quizzes are only one measure of progress in the class.  They involve a good deal of rote memorization – an essential but much maligned part of learning.   Quizzes don’t measure certain important things --  for example, your own creative or critical take on the material or what is most important to you about it.  They merely show that you are getting the basics.