Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Tips for writing examinations

It that time of the year again. Students, especially those in Class X or XII, are getting ready to face examinations that would impact their choices for several years.

Originally uploaded by kerry_yi.

Their performance would be largely determined by years of studies and also, to an extent, by natural talents. However, for their level of knowledge and preparation, some examination strategies could affect the results a little.

Here's what I think might help, judging at little from my own recent experience in marking a large set of answer scripts.

Remember that the examiner's effort is to assign marks, nothing else. Ask yourself, "Would he read my answer script if it weren't for his obligation to mark it?" Right, so the strategy must be formulated keeping this fact in mind:

  1. He is probably not interested in reading your piece. Do him a favour. Just show that you know the key points and make them stand out.
  2. Make clear, labeled diagrams, where they help. If he sees that you got all the forces right and you have the correct final answer, good you get full marks in a few seconds. Even if you don't get the final answer spot on, he would give you some marks. What he does with lots of equations and variables that are not clearly laid out, and do not produce the correct answer, is anybody's guess.
  3. Don't make irrelevant diagrams. It takes time to do them, which is time well spent only if they communicate what you want to convey.  Otherwise they expose your desperation equally effectively.
  4. To use length of an answer to cover up for any lack of knowledge is bad strategy. The examiner would discover you faked if he skims through the answer or samples a couple of paragraphs at random. You would do better to avoid lengthy answers, unless they are your only hope of getting more than about 20% marks.
  5. Don't make wild guesses. If you are completely clueless about a question, try something else.
  6. Be considerate. Write legibly.
  7. Identify your answers correctly. Put a few lines of space to set them off from other answers. These prompts would ensure that you earn marks for all your answers.
  8. Answer all parts. Do not answer anything extra. (Reading the rubric and any instructions within the sections, questions, etc. is worth the few minutes it takes.)

Enjoy the examination. Even if you are not well-prepared. Why make yourself miserable, nervous and, as a consequence, more error prone? And your state of anxiety would probably get reflected in the handwriting and choice of words. That can't be good for you.

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