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 knowing Indian traditions

4.              Learning to identify and interpret the central images associated with the traditions

5.              Learning to identify and interpret the central sounds associated with the traditions

6.              Learning to interpret central texts of different traditions

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, short answers, and sometimes image identification and/or questions on selected lines from primary texts. 

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


While a definition need be no longer than two or three lines, one really pithy sentence can earn the full points.  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 the cycle of death and rebirth and to the whole universe, which is characterized by flux and flow.



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 dates, major events, and texts associated with the Speculative Period?

·       The Speculative Period ranged from 800-400 BCE.  During that time, Aryan settlements emerged and 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.

·       During the Speculative Period (800-400 BCE) the Indian civilizations were becoming more urbanized and settling in cities.  Principle texts include the 13 major Upanishads that were written at this time.  Also, there was a stronger emphasis on self attainment and stressed a movement away from ritualized sacrifice by priests.


Q: What do Yoga and Sanyasa have to do with each other?

  • During the early periods, sanyasis would practice yoga as part of world renunciation and in order to achieve moksha.  This discipline focuses on harnessing the physical world and moving past it, like the sanyasi is trying to do by renunciation.

  • Sanyasis practice yoga as a part of their renunciation.  Yogic practices are a way to focus the consciousness on one point and transcend normal consciousness.  Sanyasis use it along with ascetic practices in order to transcend karma and achieve moksha or liberation from the cycle of suffering.



Image Identification

            Image identification questions will appear on quizzes and exams.  You will be asked to do two things: (1) identify the image, including the name of the object and its specific form (for example, “this is Siva Nataraja, king of the dance” or “this is a Northern temple in the Nagara style”) and (2) say something about its significance (i.e.,  “Siva Nataraja creates and destroys the world through his dance” or “ the northern temples resemble a series of peaks and a cave on the side.  The deity is located directly under the highest peak”).  On some occasions I will ask explicitly for more extended answers.




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.