How to maximize your exam writing

Think about what the question is actually asking. What are you expected to include in your answer? What material will be relevant? The most common complaint from markers is that the student didn’t answer the question.

1. Prove that you are answering the question – In your introduction, show how you understand the question and outline how you will answer it. Make one point or argument per paragraph and, in your conclusion, summarise the arguments to answer the question.

2. Plan before you write – The stress of working under time constraints in the exam room can make all your good study intentions disappear. However, this is when it’s more important than ever to get your ideas across clearly and concisely. Take a few minutes to think and plan:

  • Underline the key words in the question;
  • Identify the main topic and discussion areas.
  • Choose a few points/arguments about which you can write about.
  • Jot down key intermediate 2 language you want to use.
  • Make a mini-plan which puts them in order before you start writing. You can cross it through afterwards.

3. Leave yourself 10 minutes at the end of the test. Sometimes students feel too pressed for time to review anything. However, re-reading your responses carefully will help you see:

  • where you need to include points or details to answer the question thoroughly,
  • where you need to add transitions and other connectors to make your ideas coherent,
  • where you might have left out words that make sentences unclear or confusing.

Many students are not able to tune their answers to the questions asked because:

  1. They provide extra information (not asked about or not relevant)
  2. They complete a task different from the one they are asked.

Not sure you covered all the points you were expected? complete this check list and judge your performance for yourself

4. Final advice

Much of the success on an essay test comes not during the test time but in the preparation time. If you know the material, you’ll be able to generate your lists and notes quickly to help you write complete answers.

Finally, have a look at the assessment criteria for writing used last year and at the list of topics/possible tasks in Guia del candidato 2011 (your level is explained in the pink area).

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