92K - views

Writing examination answers

FMS . MRes. Dr Helen Webster. Writing Development Centre. Your questions?. On a post-it note, write down . your question about writing for exams. ?. Today’s session:. What exams really test. Implications for revision:.

Download Presentation

Writing examination answers

Download Presentation - The PPT/PDF document "Writing examination answers" is the property of its rightful owner. Permission is granted to download and print the materials on this web site for personal, non-commercial use only, and to display it on your personal computer provided you do not modify the materials and that you retain all copyright notices contained in the materials. By downloading content from our website, you accept the terms of this agreement.

Presentation on theme: "Writing examination answers"— Presentation transcript:


Writing examination answersFMS MRes

Dr Helen Webster

Writing Development CentreSlide2

Your questions?

On a post-it note, write down

your question about writing for exams


Today’s session:What exams really testImplications for revision:

Revising for memory

Revising for understanding

In the exam:Time managementQuestion analysisQuick planning and structure

Writing and editingChecking After the examSlide4

What exams really assessSlide5

What examiners want:We want you to pass and show your best

We want to give you marks.

We want to see what you know, not what you don’t know

We have realistic expectations of what can be done in an examWe want you to answer the question we set you

We’re not trying to catch you outWe want to be fair and unbiasedSlide6

What do exams test?

Bloom’s Taxonomy








Coursework writing vs


writing:Working knowledge


Marking CriteriaSlide9

Implications for RevisionSlide10

How do you revise?What are your own strategies for revision?Slide11

The Revision Process


break down











“I can’t learn everything - How do I know what to revise?”

Module handbooks


etc: course aims and objectives.

Lecture notes: Listen for hints about what is core knowledge and what is there for illustration only. Text books: Compare with lecture notes to establish the overlap; this is core knowledge. Past papers: what would you need to know to answer the questions, and what depth would be reasonable for an exam answer?Future papers: what kinds of questions can you imagine setting?Slide13

Revising for Knowledge: Memory





Revising for Understanding: Active Learning

4 Essential principles:

Select and prioritise


working knowledge!)Reduce and expandApply material to questions, test your ability to explain itRe-work material into another form Text to bullet points, bullet points to mind-map, mindmap to index cards, index cards to table, table to voice recording, recording to diagram etcSlide15

Revising for higher skills: Past Papers



your knowledge and understanding with past papersMake up your own questions using past papers as a template


Revising for higher skills:Apply

it for different purposes, imagine different uses


it, break it down, see how parts relate to one anotherSynthesise it with another source or topicEvaluate


Before the examSlide18

In the ExamSlide19

The Very First Thing you must do!Check the rubric:

Are you in the right exam?

How many questions do you have to do?

Do you have any choice out of the questions?How many marks are they worth?How long do you have?How long should you allowTo read the whole paper and choose questions

To answer each questionTo check your answersSlide20

Anatomy of an

Exam Question

Find the Focus and the Instruction as well as the SubjectSlide22

Different types of assignmentThe traditional essay question

OPEN: Why is a

non-synthetic (biological)

scaffold the most appropriate solution to a tissue engineering problem?

CLOSED: Do you agree that a non-synthetic (biological) scaffold is the most appropriate solution to a tissue engineering problem?The traditional essay instruction‘Discuss the technical and medical barriers to employing stem cells in tissue engineering’. The scaffolded instructionDiscuss the preparation of synthetic tissue engineering scaffolds using templating and non-templating approaches (50%). Describe, using examples, when using a non-synthetic (biological) scaffold might be a more appropriate solution to a tissue engineering problem (50%)Slide23

Instruction Words

Account for



Compare and contrast

Comment on
















If you were the examiner……What question would you set?

Devise a question suitable for testing a candidate’s working knowledge


and higher skills in exam conditionsWhat would your marking criteria be?Slide25

Break the process down!

The Writing Process:

Select your first question

Analyse the questionDecide how to approach the question

Decide what to include/what to leave outMake a note of the main pointsDecide how you will structure the answerWrite the answerContent: Keep your answer closely focusedStyle: Write clearly and conciselyCheck your answer before submissionSlide26

Planning and structure: longer questionsQuickly note down the content you think is relevant

Organise the order in which you will structure it

Write it up

Cross the notes out!Slide27

If you were sitting the exam……what would your answer to your own question be?

Create a plan for an answer to your own exam questionSlide28

The Introduction:

Your reader’s perspective

What are you doing?

Why are you doing this?

How will you do this? Slide29

Plan The Introduction

What are you doing?

How do you interpret the topic and the question? Context, background and definitions (what does your reader need explaining, before they can make sense of your essay?), any limitations.

Why are you doing this?

Interpret the question (problematise, justify. Why is this question worth asking? How will you do this? Signpost structure (How are you going to answer – in what order?) and methodology (which models and theories will you use?)Slide30

Conclusions: Q & AWhat is biofilm? How do biofilms develop and what problems do they cause for the management of periodontitis?

Biofilm can be described as X, it is most likely to develop in this way, and these are the problems it causes because of these reasons.

‘Contentious Quotation’ Discuss and critically evaluate this view.

The statement is largely untrue, for these reasons, but there is still some truth in it, for other reasons.Slide31

The Conclusion

Return to the broad overall perspective from the narrow detail of the main body

Revisit the question, your answer, and the main steps by which you reached it

Do not include new material

You could consider the wider implications and significance of your argumentSlide32

Paragraphs and structure

Self assessment can

also develop skills which make a student more attractive to prospective employers.

Employers value students with skills in self assessment because these types of skills are relevant to a wide range of employment contexts. They want graduates who can accurately assess their own competencies in performing tasks. Students who can do this are well placed to take on responsibilities and adapt readily to roles in work places. The value in developing these types of assessment can be seen to go beyond meeting immediate educational needs. Students who have developed an autonomous approach to learning are well set up for life-long learning which will continue throughout and beyond their working lives.

Topic sentence: Introduction of the paragraph’s main idea

Main body in which the initial assertion is developed and explained

Conclusion to be drawn from the above points

Signpost wordSlide33



per paragraph.


to show what the subject and purpose of the paragraph – this is basically your point. This first sentence is crucial. Use SIGNPOST words to show your argumentDEVELOP the point (first sentence) in the body of the paragraph – details, examples, etcCONCLUDE the paragraphSlide34

Signpost words - Types of linkA sequence of points

(firstly, secondly, thirdly)*

To add more examples or details

(moreover, furthermore, in addition, for example, for instance)*To focus on specifics or to broaden and generalise (specifically, in particular, in general, for the most part)To introduce a comparison or contrast, disagreement

(similarly, likewise, in contrast, however, although, on the contrary)To introduce reasoning (therefore, hence, thus. consequently)Slide35

Writing up and checking your answersWe don’t expect perfection in an exam!

Legibility, clarity, relevance are more important than style and strict accuracy

You might want to write on every other line or leave a margin for making edits

If you run out of time, jot notes and bullet points– you may get some marks for thisBuild in time to check your answers at the end:have you answered all the questions you need to?

Does your answer actually answer the question?Do you want to add, change or cross anything out?Slide36

After the examIf you want to compare your experience with other people after the exam, don’t take it too seriously!Slide37

And finally…Do have a (happy) Christmas break!Slide38

The Writing Development CentreRobinson Library

Please book appointments online: