Written Questions

Written exams include those in which you would write:

Short Answer Questions

In general:

  • find out from your lecturer how long each answer is expected to be. It can range from 5 lines (50 words) to a page (250 words);
  • analyse each question carefully to find the task, content/topic and limit words;
  • be precise. Give exactly what each question asks for. You will not be given marks for anything else; and 
  • illustration, eg diagrams, graphs, tables, can save you time and help explain your answer.

In addition, in exams:

  • work out the time available for each question;
  • do not exceed this time;
  • briefly plan each answer;
  • write legibly; and 
  • be precise, give what the question asks for - you don't have time for more.

Essay Questions

Ascertain from your lecturer how long each essay is expected to be.  It can range from 1 to 2 pages to 4 or more. Try to get a word limit as well, then work out how many A4 pages your writing takes to reach this limit.

Detailed instructions on essay development are available online.

The best way to prepare for essay questions is to:

  • summarise your notes in a form that suits you;
  • make sure you understand how the ideas in a topic fit together and what type of relationship there is among them e.g. cause/effect, thesis/arguments, major/minor ideas and so on;
  • practise past exam questions by writing an outline for the essay. Despite what some students think, it is not better to write an essay in full and then learn it. This does not allow for flexibility in your thinking when the examiner changes the question to shift the emphasis onto another aspect of the topic; and 
  • include any definitions, examples, diagrams, tables, graphs that are relevant; these present ideas clearly and economically and assist explanations.

In exam conditions:

  • work out the time available for each question;
  • do not exceed this time;
  • analyse the question carefully, what are the key words?;
  • plan your answer in your exam book, jot down the main points before you begin your essay;
  • are there diagrams or graphs that can help explain your answer?;
  • check - reread the question, are you answering it?;
  • write legibly and double-space your writing;
  • write an introduction outlining your main points/arguments;
  • use one main point per paragraph;
  • write a conclusion summarising your main points/arguments;
  • if there is time, reread, correct any spelling and grammar mistakes; and 
  • if you run out of time, quickly finish by writing notes for the rest of your essay.