As soon as you take one step up the career ladder, your effectiveness depends on your ability to communicate your thoughts in writing answer and in speaking. Learning to communicate effectively through the written words involves planning, thinking, communicating, exercising judgment, translating (if a second-language speaker) and making decisions. Writing is a skill based on principles and practices, and these principles are not clear cut – they need to be experienced rather than taught.
The 3 C’s of Effective Writing Answers
CLEAR: easy to follow with main points that stand out.
CONCISE: complete and comprehensive, yet readable in a short time.
COMPELLING: a convincing story that will inspire action.
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Here are the Ways to Write to the Point Answers in Exams
Focus on the Question
The terms of the question:
- Decide what the question are, and underline the main keyword.
- Ensure that you have defined them and answer the question asked
- If you think they are problematic, define them at the beginning.
- Make sure your definition is sound: do not try to stretch the meaning of words too far.
- Concentrate on your answers and avoid being irrelevant.
- Be sure that you show explicitly how your ideas relate to the question.
- Make a plan of your answer, ensuring that you cover every point asked in the question
Wake up the Examiner!
- Create a strong opening and closing paragraph
- Just repeat the words of the question “This question asks about … “
- Give a hackneyed dictionary definition of one or more of the terms in the question.
- Try to wake the examiner up by starting with: A short controversial statement, A relevant quotation, A striking piece of evidence.
- The main thing is to demonstrate that you have thought about the question.
- A strong ending is important in that it creates the final impression the examiner carries away from your answer – Save a bold statement until the end Or finish with a useful quotation.
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Think about your style
- Develop a fluent style by giving some thought, however brief, to each sentence before you write it:
- Be accurate as examiners award marks for ‘quality of language’.
- Leave time for yourself to make new points.
- Avoid repeating ideas
- Use an appropriate tone and vocabulary
- Make good use of quotations
Organize Your Time
- Divide your time appropriately because in an examination you will almost certainly have several questions to write or sections to complete. Decide on the order in which you wish to answer them.
- Make sure that you answer them all.
- Jot down ideas about any of the questions you expect to answer: don’t hope to remember things – especially bearing in mind that you may be pressed for time towards the end.
- Give each question the appropriate time and don’t exceed it.
Plan your answers carefully
- Have the confidence to take time to plan. You could usefully devote up to a quarter of the exam time to this process. It is worth it because:
- You will save time in the end.
- It is much more efficient than sitting and trying to think of the next point
- You will have a sharper, more fluent and authoritative answer.
Practice Past Papers
There really is no better way to get exam ready than by attempting past papers. This process isn’t just about preparing an answer for a specific question, it’s about understanding how you approach a question in an exam, how to structure your answer, the timings you should assign and what information will get marks.
Manage Your Time
This is where you need to be strict on yourself. Once you have assigned a time limit for each question, you MUST move on once you hit it or you won’t be able to give the next question your full attention.
Remember to leave yourself some time at the end to go back over your answers and add in little notes or pieces of information about the topic. You never know, this could help bump you up a grade!
Read All Questions Carefully
The stress of the situation can cause you to misread a question, plan your answer out, start writing your response and then realise you made a mistake and wasted vital time. Even though you generally won’t be writing answers to every question on the paper, reading all questions thoroughly will ensure you make the right choices and can highlight how much you know about the topic.
Don’t forget to attempt all questions that you have selected. However, be careful of MCQ questions with negative marking. If you’re not sure of the answer you could cost yourself some valuable marks.
Explore Both Sides of an Argument
Building your argument in the main body of your exam answer will give your overall opinion credibility. Encourage yourself to explore both sides of an argument and then conclude with a critical analysis of your answer.
Many questions you approach will look as though they seek a straightforward answer but in reality they want you to fully outline a structured essay. Don’t fall into the trap of providing a one-sided view, get your hands dirty and open your mind to other possibilities.
Structure Your Answer
Don’t just jump into writing your answer. Take the first few minutes to plan the structure of your essay which will save you time when you are delving into meaty parts. Always stay on topic; if you’re discussing the role of women in society as portrayed by the author in Of Mice and Men, don’t digress and start outlining other themes in the book for example.
Most essays should have an introduction, three main points and a conclusion. A lot of students see a conclusion as a final sentence to finish the piece off. A strong conclusion give an A grade student the chance to shine by bringing everything together and fortifying their opinion.
Work out exactly what you’re being asked
It sounds really obvious, but lots of students have trouble answering questions because they don’t take time to figure out exactly what they’re expected to do – instead, they skim-read and then write the essay they want to write. Answer the question asked not the one you would have liked to be asked. Avoid being irrelevant. And be sure that you show explicitly how your ideas relate to the question.
Be as Explicit as Possible
Use forceful, persuasive language to show how the points you’ve made to answer the questions. Main focus should be on tangential or irrelevant material – but many students lose marks even though they make great points, because they don’t quite impress how relevant those points are.
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Be Brutally Honest with Yourself About Whether a Point is Relevant Before you Write it.
It doesn’t matter how impressive, original or interesting it is. It doesn’t matter if you’re panicking, and you can’t think of any points that do answer the question. If a point isn’t relevant, don’t bother with it. It’s a waste of time, and might actually work against you as they will lose focus on your really good points.
Review Your Answers Thoroughly
Smart students can still make the mistake of handing their answer book in without checking through what they have written. Proof read your answers as much as you can to correct any spelling mistakes and add any extra comments you think are worth mentioning.
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