INTRODUCTION: In the past when I would schedule class time to review for a test, I noticed that many students would skip class.  I came up with this activity to increase attendance at the review and, thus, increase test scores in my literature course.  By adding some incentives (extra credit and prizes), I generated interest in the exam review and nearly all my students participated—and had fun!  This strategy could be used successfully by any instructor who gives exams with short answers and/or multiple-choice questions.


  • To prepare students for the short answer questions of a final exam
  • To have fun while reviewing academic content


  • One packet of first-round questions for each 4-5 students (50 questions per packet)
  • One packet of tie-breaker questions for each 4-5 students (10 questions per packet)
  • One copy of the four final-round questions (for instructor)
  • Notebook paper for each student.  


1. Divide the class into groups (4 or 5 students per group).

2. Hand each group a packet of 50 questions and ask them to place the questions in the center of the table, face down.

3. In each group, the person who has the next birthday goes first; students will then take turns going clockwise.

4. The first student chooses a card, reads the question to his/her group, and then answers the question. (For example, the card might have the name of an item from a short story, like “the black box.”  The student must identify the story where “the black box” appears: “The Lottery.”) The group will decide if the answer is correct or not.  If the student does not know the answer, the next student (to his/her left) has the opportunity to answer (or guess!), and so on around the group until someone knows.  If no one in the group knows the correct answer, someone looks up the answer or they ask the instructor. NOTE: All students should have notebook paper handy to jot down information that they don’t know. 

5. If a student gets the correct answer, s/he gets to keep the card which is worth one point. 

6. Each group continues until all questions have been answered.

7. When all the questions have been answered, each student counts the numbers of cards s/he has earned (i.e. the number of questions answered correctly).  The person with the most cards/ points in each group wins the preliminary round, earns 5 points extra credit, and moves to the final round.

8.  Directions for tie breaker: If there is a tie, the group then uses the ten “tie breaker” questions to select a winner.  Each person involved in the tie will need a clean piece of notebook paper.

A member of the group volunteers to read the ten “tie breaker” questions, and those who are involved in the tie write down the answers to all ten questions. 

The person who gets the most correct answers is the group’s winner and moves on to the final round of play.  (If there is still a tie after the “tie breaker,” the instructor visits that group and asks additional questions until the tie is broken.)

NOTE: If there is not a tie in a group, the group should still go over the “tie breaker” questions and answer them together because some of them may be on the final exam.

9. Directions for Final Round: The winners from the preliminary round now compete for the grand prize. The instructor verbally asks each “contestant” four questions.  The “contestant” writes down his/her answers.   (NOTE: These questions should be more difficult than the questions in the preliminary round.)

Each “contestant” may consult with his/her preliminary group on ONE of the four questions.  No textbooks may be used in this round. NOTE: If there is a tie, the instructor will continue to ask questions until there is a clear winner.

The person with the most correct answers wins the grand prize (I provided a $10 gift certificate for Barnes & Noble Bookstore).


I was very pleased with the students’ response to this activity.  Everyone was engaged and eager to win the extra credit and the “grand prize.”  In fact, because the students were having so much fun, we almost ran out of time. (I did this in a 75 minute class.) This tells me that perhaps I started with too many questions (50).  Next time, I will reduce the number of questions in the preliminary round to 35 or 40. 

In two of the groups, there was a tie, and the tie breaker questions worked well to reveal who really knew the stories. 

The final round also was a success.  I think the students liked the fact that they could ask their former group members for help with one of their final questions.  (Of course, I borrowed this idea from the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire?)

After I started playing this game to review for the final, the overall final exam scores were significantly higher.


Usually, reviewing for an exam is boring.  However, this approach seemed to be fun and effective.  In retrospect, this “exam review activity” was worth the preparation time. 

Throughout the semester, my students work in groups and even do group poetry projects.  As a result, they are comfortable working together towards a common goal.  The “goal” in this activity is success on the final exam, which I think they achieved!

–Rita Kronis, Faculty, English, Eastern Florida State College, FL

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