Getting the examiner on your side of an paper can only help, so here’s our guide to making your exam answers those that will please the marker!
Answer the actual question
Yes, it’s said time and time again on here and elsewhere but it always will be: Answer the actual question asked!
We’ve spoken to examiners and they’ve all got plenty of stories to tell of students not following this basic step.
It may include anything from misunderstanding what the question is asking, failing to read the instructions on how to answer the question, or even writing an answer to another question altogether, one we can only assume the student hoped to have!
If you’ve taken past or mock papers as part of revision, don’t be caught out by similar looking or sounding questions. Often examiners may reuse the same scripts but make slightly different changes, so answer what is on the paper in front of you then and there!
Be clear and concise
This one is especially for those longer written answers: Examiners don’t want to wade through filler to get to the main points, just as much as you don’t want to waste time writing stuff that won’t get you marks.
Make use of bullet point lists, where appropriate, and focus on the key points and ideas of a topic. In maths questions, make use of short hand symbols such as ∴ for ‘Therefore’.
And if a question only asks you to define a certain phrase, word or term for one mark, don’t find yourself writing more than a sentence or two at the very most.
Take care of presentation
Presentation is important: At the basic level, the examiner needs to be able to read your writing, so start by making sure your response is actually legible.
Try to avoid ending up with scribbles all over the paper and arrows going everywhere by planning before putting pen to paper: Create an online out of your answer in your head so you don’t find yourself wanting to go back and add paragraphs later.
Depending on the exam, poor spelling and grammar may not necessarily mean automatically losing marks, but if the examiner doesn’t understand or confuses what you’re saying, you may miss out never the less!
Only keep what you want the examiner to see
This one is simple and is usually stated on the front of the exam paper: If you don’t want the examiner to read it, cross it out.
From doodles you’ve drawn while thinking to rough notes or workings, clearly cross out anything you don’t want marked.
Don’t go overboard though – you’re not redacting a top secret document – a clear ‘X’ through it will suffice.
Explain and show your working
Sometimes in more complex questions it may be helpful to explain what you’re doing, and at the very least you should always show your working.
This can be in done with just a few extra words by the side of your calculations, but may not even need that much: Just pointing out the formula you’re using can help the examiner far more quickly see what you’re doing.
Don’t skip out any intimidate steps, even if you feel they are obvious, as the examiner may beg to differ, and always explain any assumptions you make.
If you do happen to make a mistake with the ultimate answer, you may find you’re still able to pick up most of the marks by showing how you got there.
Highlight the final answer
Lastly, make your final answer clear! If you’ve completed a page of sums and algebra, you don’t want your hard earned reward to get lost in a mess of numbers and equations.
Underline and or circle your final answer, or simply add the word “Answer” next to it.