STUDY SKILLS - PREPARING FOR AND TAKING EXAMS
PLANNING AND WRITING YOUR RESPONSES
PLANNING YOUR RESPONSES
Jot down an outline for each answer before you start writing. Write down all of your outlines at the start of the exam, especially if you are nervous. It will build your confidence and allow you to settle. It also gives you a framework for the whole exam.
Read your outlines back through and be prepared to revise them. Students tend to rush into writing as soon as possible. But you will not be able to rewrite anything. What you write will have to be the "final draft." Therefore, you need to make any changes, additions and omissions that might be necessary now, at the planning stage.
WRITING YOUR RESPONSES
Writing a well-structured essay is crucial. Take a look at the webpage on writing an essay.
Introduction: rephrase the question and state how you intend to tackle it. Make your assumptions clear and define your key terms where necessary. Avoid the "Before ..." syndrome: e.g., "Before discussing why the Roman Empire collapsed in the 4th and 5th centuries AD we will first examine the growth of the Empire from the age of Augustus, ca. 14 AD." Why? The question does not ask for it and you have not got the time to do it.
Body: use paragraphs to make a number of points that tackle the question head-on. Make sure everything is relevant and be concise. Avoid writing a mass of factual or narrative information. One example for each point will usually do. You will not have the time to give the detailed evidence and examples that you may have already used in another essay or research paper. It is the quality of the argument and not the quantity of information that matters.
Conclusion: link your argument back to the question asked and review how you have dealt with it. You will not have time to introduce any new points in the conclusion. On the other hand, try to avoid such meaningless phrases as "Thus it can be seen that ...." Take the time to read your response once through before you move on to the next question - your grader will, so why shouldn't you, the author?