Most test preparation strategies that work for other social science courses will be effective for anthropology classes. The test preparation strategies described and illustrated here are study guides and practice tests. When preparing for anthropology exams, students should also organize information in meaningful and memorable ways and work on memory strategies for keeping the material straight; these topics are covered elsewhere in this page.
Study guides are intended to provide an abbreviated summary of everything one should know for a test. Terms, names, dates, concepts, lists, and other information are organized on the study guide by data type or by main ideas. Study guides serve as checklists for exam preparation.
An example of a study guide for introductory cultural anthropology is illustrated here (D. Applegate, CAL). This study guide arranged by information type is based on a chapter in D. B. Bates' Cultural Anthropology (1996, Allyn & Bacon).
Shown below is a study guide for an introductory prehistory course (D. Applegate, CAL). The material is arranged by type.
The following topical study guide might be developed for a physical anthropology course on modern human variation (D. Applegate, CAL). It is based on a chapter in Jurmain and Nelson's Introduction to Physical Anthropology.
Illustrated here is a study guide for a language and culture course (D. Applegate, CAL). This list-style study guide is based on a chapter in W. P. Lehmann's Language: An Introduction (1983, Random House).
An effective way to study for anthropology tests is making up and answering practice questions. It is particularly helpful if exams require you to use the information in new ways other than how it is presented in class or the book. Although the strategy may be time consuming and awkward at first, the payoffs make it worthwhile and, over time and with practice, you will improve in your ability to predict questions.
If review questions are not available in the textbook or in a workbook, make up your own from the notes and reading material. Try turning chapter headings into essay questions. Incorporate bold words in the text into objective questions like true-false and multiple choice. Listen for your instructor to ask questions in class or ask if he/she has copies of old exams you can look at for ideas.
Provided below are examples of practice multiple choice, true-false, fill-in, and essay questions. There are two examples each of cultural anthropology, archaeology, physical anthropology, and linguistics for the four types of questions (D. Applegate, CAL).
Practice Multiple-Choice Questions
- Small group size, mobility, reliance on wild plants and animals, and band-level political organization characterize most:
a. foragers [correct]
d. intensive agriculturists
- Consanguineal kin:
a. are related through marriage
b. are not used to reckon kinship in patrilineal systems
c. form the basis of descent groups [correct]
d. include godparents and other fictive kin
- Ziggurats, secular rulers, and cuneiform writing developed in early civilizations of which culture area?
b. Southeast Asia
d. Near East [correct]
- You are an archaeologist who just uncovered the remains of a Neanderthal burial in Israel. Included in the burial goods is the wooden shaft of a throwing spear. What dating method must you use to date the spear?
a. obsidian hydration
c. radiocarbon [correct]
- Old World monkeys differ from New World monkeys in that:
a. Old World monkeys have downward-facing noses [correct]
b. Old World monkeys have a 2-1-3-3 dental formula
c. Old World monkeys are purely arboreal
d. all of these are correct
- A polymorphism is:
a. the part of a chromosome responsible for the production of a polypeptide chain
b. an alternate form of a gene
c. a genetic locus with two or more alleles in appreciable frequency in a population [correct]
d. a phenotypic variant for a specific trait
- Noam Chomsky is noted for his work in:
a. generative grammars and syntactic structures [correct]
d. etymology and language history
- An example of a phoneme is:
c. /d/ [correct]
Practice True-False Questions
- True or False: Patrilineal descent is more common among humans than matrilineal descent. [true]
- True or False: An individual is born with achieved status but must obtain ascribed status through his or her acts and deeds. [false]
- True or False: The three goals of archaeology are culture history, lifeways reconstruction, and culture process. [true]
- True or False: Microscopic use-wear analysis helps to determine the functions of stone tools. [true]
- True or False: The human fossil specimen known as "Lucy" is a significant find because it is the oldest and most complete Homo habilis fossil found to date. [false]
- True or False: Endemic diseases exist at some level in a population over a long period of time. [true]
- True or False: Greek, Armenian, Irish, and Sanskrit are examples of extant or living Indo-European languages. [false]
- True or False: The smallest unit of meaning in a language is a phoneme. [false]
Practice Fill-in Questions
- In a __________ descent system, ego does not belong to his/her father's descent group. [matrilineal]
- Anthropologist _______________________ is credited with the development of structural-functionalism theory, which examines the function of social structures in reducing conflict and controlling behavior [A.R. Radcliffe-Brown]
- The __________ is a series of knotted cords used by the Inca for record-keeping. [quipu]
- Levallois prepared-core technology for the production of flake stone tools developed during the _________________ period. [Upper Paleolithic]
- A person suffering from _______________ does not receive an adequate amount of food, while a person suffering from ______________ lacks a specific key element in the diet. [undernourishment, malnourishment]
- The oldest evidence of human bipedal locomotion takes the form of fossilized footprints at the site of ___________ in Africa. [Laetoli]
- _____________ is the process by which two languages are simplified and and combined into a different language. [pidginization]
- The phonemes /p/ and /b/ in English are examples of __________ stops. [bilabial]
Practice Essay Questions
- Compare and contrast the four human subsistence modes in terms of diet, energy use, settlement patterns, socio-political organization, and viability. Give an example of a group practicing each type of subsistence.
- Discuss Julian Steward's method and theory of cultural ecology, being sure to address the concepts of culture core, technological determinism, adaptation, and multilineal evolution. How did Steward apply this approach to the study of Western Basin foragers?
- What is the difference between relative and absolute dating in archaeology? Identify and describe one relative dating method and one absolute dating method - what materials can be dated, what is the time frame, and how does it work?
- Describe four major cultural developments of the Upper Paleolithic period. Mention specific sites and evidence and explain the significance of each development.
- What are the conditions necessary for a population to be in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium? What does it mean for a population to be in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium? If 90 individuals in a population have genotype TT, 60 have genotype Tt, and 50 have genotype tt, is the population in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (show your work)?
- Identify and describe the locomotor, sensory, dietary, and reproductive traits that distinguish primates from other mammal groups.
- What are the goals and methods of ethnolinguistics? Illustrate your answer using Conklin's study of color.
- Franz Boas is remembered primarily for his ethnographic research, but he did make important contributions to the field of linguistics. Discuss those contributions.