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Structuring An Exam Essay Tips

This is what it all comes down to; you’re sitting in the exam hall, waiting to get your hands on that anticipated piece of paper. You’ve jammed a ton of information into your brain and your fingernails are non-existent – it’s time to get down to business!

Yes the exam environment may be different across disciplines. Computing students will sit some tests in front of a computer with their fingers poised to code. A practical element will contribute to science student’s final grade. It doesn’t matter if you’re studying English, Economics, Psychology or History, every exam can be approached in much the same way with these exam writing tips.

We’re here to give you some help answering and writing exam questions that will show your knowledge to the person who reads your paper.

How to Answer Exam Questions

Pay attention! These quick tips should be common sense but many students who are under exam stress fail to see their mistakes. We’re going to help you avoid a major exam disaster by pointing you in the right direction.

Here’s our top exam writing tips to help you understand how to answer exam questions:

1. Practice Past Papers

There really is no better way to get exam ready than by attempting past papers. Most exam bodies should have past papers available online but your teacher will get you started on these in class.

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.

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2. 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.

3. 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!

4. 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.

5. Explore Both Sides of an Argument

Building your argument in the main body of your exam answer will give your overall opinion credibility. English language questions, for example, encourage you 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.

6. Review Your Answers Thoroughly

Smart students can still make the mistake of handing their answer book in without checking through what they have written. Proofread your answers as much as you can to correct any spelling mistakes and add any extra comments you think are worth mentioning.

You will be surprised what you can spot in those last few minutes. This is your last chance to throw in that quotation, list other relevant points or even draw a quick diagram. Now is not the time to drop your game, show the examiner what you’re made of!

 

Remember, the exams are not designed to trick you. Don’t panic on the day of your exam or this brain freeze could mean that you get a lower grade that you truly deserve. Convince yourself that you know how to answer exam questions and your almost there.

Are there any exam tips that helped you? Leave a comment below!

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Writing an essay often seems to be a dreaded task among students. Whether the essay is for a scholarship, a class, or maybe even a contest, many students often find the task overwhelming. While an essay is a large project, there are many steps a student can take that will help break down the task into manageable parts. Following this process is the easiest way to draft a successful essay, whatever its purpose might be.

According to Kathy Livingston’s Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:

1. Pick a topic.

You may have your topic assigned, or you may be given free reign to write on the subject of your choice. If you are given the topic, you should think about the type of paper that you want to produce. Should it be a general overview of the subject or a specific analysis? Narrow your focus if necessary.

If you have not been assigned a topic, you have a little more work to do. However, this opportunity also gives you the advantage to choose a subject that is interesting or relevant to you. First, define your purpose. Is your essay to inform or persuade?

Once you have determined the purpose, you will need to do some research on topics that you find intriguing. Think about your life. What is it that interests you? Jot these subjects down.

Finally, evaluate your options. If your goal is to educate, choose a subject that you have already studied. If your goal is to persuade, choose a subject that you are passionate about. Whatever the mission of the essay, make sure that you are interested in your topic.

2. Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas.

In order to write a successful essay, you must organize your thoughts. By taking what’s already in your head and putting it to paper, you are able to see connections and links between ideas more clearly. This structure serves as a foundation for your paper. Use either an outline or a diagram to jot down your ideas and organize them.

To create a diagram, write your topic in the middle of your page. Draw three to five lines branching off from this topic and write down your main ideas at the ends of these lines. Draw more lines off these main ideas and include any thoughts you may have on these ideas.

If you prefer to create an outline, write your topic at the top of the page. From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. In this space, make sure to list other smaller ideas that relate to each main idea. Doing this will allow you to see connections and will help you to write a more organized essay.

3. Write your thesis statement.

Now that you have chosen a topic and sorted your ideas into relevant categories, you must create a thesis statement. Your thesis statement tells the reader the point of your essay. Look at your outline or diagram. What are the main ideas?

Your thesis statement will have two parts. The first part states the topic, and the second part states the point of the essay. For instance, if you were writing about Bill Clinton and his impact on the United States, an appropriate thesis statement would be, “Bill Clinton has impacted the future of our country through his two consecutive terms as United States President.”

Another example of a thesis statement is this one for the “Winning Characteristics” Scholarship essay: “During my high school career, I have exhibited several of the “Winning Characteristics,” including Communication Skills, Leadership Skills and Organization Skills, through my involvement in Student Government, National Honor Society, and a part-time job at Macy’s Department Store.”

4. Write the body.

The body of your essay argues, explains or describes your topic. Each main idea that you wrote in your diagram or outline will become a separate section within the body of your essay.

Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure. Begin by writing one of your main ideas as the introductory sentence. Next, write each of your supporting ideas in sentence format, but leave three or four lines in between each point to come back and give detailed examples to back up your position. Fill in these spaces with relative information that will help link smaller ideas together.

5. Write the introduction.

Now that you have developed your thesis and the overall body of your essay, you must write an introduction. The introduction should attract the reader’s attention and show the focus of your essay.

Begin with an attention grabber. You can use shocking information, dialogue, a story, a quote, or a simple summary of your topic. Whichever angle you choose, make sure that it ties in with your thesis statement, which will be included as the last sentence of your introduction.

6. Write the conclusion.

The conclusion brings closure of the topic and sums up your overall ideas while providing a final perspective on your topic. Your conclusion should consist of three to five strong sentences. Simply review your main points and provide reinforcement of your thesis.

7. Add the finishing touches.

After writing your conclusion, you might think that you have completed your essay. Wrong. Before you consider this a finished work, you must pay attention to all the small details.

Check the order of your paragraphs. Your strongest points should be the first and last paragraphs within the body, with the others falling in the middle. Also, make sure that your paragraph order makes sense. If your essay is describing a process, such as how to make a great chocolate cake, make sure that your paragraphs fall in the correct order.

Review the instructions for your essay, if applicable. Many teachers and scholarship forms follow different formats, and you must double check instructions to ensure that your essay is in the desired format.

Finally, review what you have written. Reread your paper and check to see if it makes sense. Make sure that sentence flow is smooth and add phrases to help connect thoughts or ideas. Check your essay for grammar and spelling mistakes.

Congratulations! You have just written a great essay.

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