ANSWERING THE QUESTION
The application of your knowledge to the specific essay question is very important. Think of everything you know on the chosen exam topic but only utilise the parts that are relevant to the question you have chosen. This often means leaving behind some well revised material and it can be difficult but your relevant, carefully applied answer will be all the better for it.
Understand exactly what is asked of you and do just that and nothing more.
IDENTIFYING AND FOCUSING ON KEY POINTS AND ARGUMENTS
In an exam you will not have time to cover all of the points and expand on all of the arguments that you may have included in an essay written in term time or which you may have seen in a model or suggested answer. Concentrate your efforts on identifying a limited number of relevant key points and argue these well. You might even need to say in your introduction that you are prioritising the arguments that you are putting forward.
STRUCTURING YOUR RESPONSE
You are under pressure in the exam and may be nervous or anxious – as a result structure often suffers. There is often a tendency to begin writing without advance thinking. In other words, you ‘bash out’ thoughts in the order they occur. You might neglect or marginalise important points and you might spend time and put emphasis on less relevant material.
You need to sift, apply and organise relevant material into a coherent, concise response.
Some tips on structure:
You have 15 minutes reading time in the exam. A 5 minute essay plan will ensure effective use of your time and help you produce work that flows logically, avoids waffle and is comprehensive. Essay plans should form part of your revision. Make sure you time yourself strictly!
Prioritise your argument. Move quickly to the main body of your answer and give priority to this main section.
Introductions and conclusions are important. In your introduction engage directly with the question whilst demonstrating your understanding. Elaborate on any significant terms and indicate briefly how you intend to structure your response.
When time is short, conclusions will suffer. There may be little time to review your arguments, but a short paragraph returning to the question and concentrating on some key concluding comments will give your work a sense of completion. Don’t forget, it’s the last word on the subject that your examiner will read.
Signposting – indicates the direction of your argument and is an important part of structuring. It can however be kept brief.
If you are short of time avoid outlining arguments in advance of expanding upon them and avoid summarising them afterwards. They are repetitions of a sort and in the context of the exam they offer scope for saving time. Where you do have time to include them, keep them brief and prioritise the main body of your essay where you’ll be making these arguments anyway.
Try and keep it legible and clear. A happy examiner is one who doesn’t have to spend time trying to decipher your work.