Pay attention to any instructions about materials you are allowed to bring. If your instructor tells you you may bring your text, the questions will probably require answers that relate specifically to the said text. Reading the text ahead of time is a definite bonus.
Also, even though your instructor does not tell you to bring a pen or pencil, you should probably go ahead and do that, on the off chance that a writing implement will be needed at some point.
Sniping at the professor for any reason just before the exam starts is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. Humour the poor dear, even if you privately think rules about turning off cell phones or not entering the examination room before the invigilator are “ridiculous and stupid”.
Even if you are getting a B+/A- average, not turning up to the exam will probably mean you end up with an F for the course. Do not be surprised when this happens.
I know it’s an English exam, but basic math skills are still important. “Answer 8 questions” means 8, not 6 or 7, or, WTF, 9.
Similarly, “Answer one of the following in essay format” means answer one of the three questions, not write an essay that attempts to answer three completely unrelated questions.
Spelling counts. It’s the little details that matter. When it’s an open book exam and you have to write an analysis of an essay by Sarah Vowell, referring to her as “Powell” throughout your exam is unlikely to get you extra marks.
Try to answer the question. For example, if you are asked to write a persuasive essay on types of argument with specific reference to the three appeals defined by Aristotle, writing a narrative about your cousin who went to juvie is unlikely to meet the instructor’s requirements.
A “bonus question” is your professor’s way of offering you a lifeline, in case you have screwed up (see points 1-8, above). Essentially, a bonus question offers free marks. Take the 2 minutes out of your busy life to throw a sentence at it, especially if you are done early.
Professors are tired and cranky at this time of year, and overburdened with marking a metric fuckton of mediocre crap. If you have an inspired moment and think of a little joke or pleasantry that might lighten this load a little, go ahead and throw it in there. It’s best to avoid racist, sexist, or off-colour humour, but that little gem about how although playing Grand Theft Auto will not get you a girlfriend, playing the Sims will has got to be worth an extra 3-5%.