Taking Examinations: Routes to Success
|Upon the completion of this unit, the learner will be able to:
All of us face examinations in our career on different levels. There are different types of techniques and methods that equip a candidate to write open-ended examinations confidently. To take examinations successfully in the English language, a candidate requires to understand the types of questions and requirements for answering each of them. From setting a plan for the examination to reviewing the answers in the answer sheet, there lie various stages in this process. Knowing them will help the candidates to score better grades on the tests. This unit looks into some important strategies and prerequisites for writing examinations.
Types of questions, Practice, Answers, Planning, Writing techniques, Strategies.
Writing answers skillfully is a great quality of a student because it causes one to win top scores and indirectly helps him or her to achieve their dream career. There are so many elements that help one to perform well in examinations. Though the preparations and arrangements one makes for examinations lie spread on various aspects and areas, this unit focuses on the writing methods and techniques that lead one to the successful completion of the examination.
4.5.1 Knowing Questions Before Taking Answers
Knowing the types of questions that are given in a test is useful since it will help the candidate determine the kind of response he or she should provide. Understanding the different types of exam questions will lead to formulating the right strategies for answering questions and eliminating exam anxiety.
Now, we can categorise the level of questions into three. The first one is factual question. In this type, the answer has to be straightforward and can be directly jotted down if the candidate knows it. Usually, questions of this type test the candidate’s ability in recalling the answers. If the candidate does not recall the answer to this type of question, he or she has to mark it. Often, the answer will come to mind while writing the remaining answers during the examination. An example of a factual question is: What is the green leaf-like structure that supports a flower known as?
The second type of question also comes under factual questions. However, the answer to such questions needs to be written in a descriptive style by remembering lots of concepts, ideas and methods. That is, the candidate needs to arrange different factual matters in detail by employing ideas, concepts and formulas. An example of this type of question is: Explain the application of some common software in your daily life.
In the third type of question, the candidate requires to draw conclusions or apply knowledge to fresh circumstances. This mental process is called “critical thinking.” Here, the candidate needs to know the factual elements to be incorporated into the answer. However, the nature of the question would not be to simply write down those facts. Instead, the candidate has to use his or her knowledge in a new context and write a critical note. The candidates are not needed to already know the answer to such types of questions, rather they can develop it using their knowledge. A sample question for this type is: How can managers use Maslow’s Need Hierarchy theory to motivate employees in an organisation?
4.5.2 Develop a Plan
While reviewing the question paper, the candidates have to identify the significance of each section. This will help to identify the approach to answer the questions. Some students may choose to start with the simple ones they know the answers to. They keep the challenging ones for later because they know they will take more time to work on them. Some pupils start with the questions with the highest marks to ensure they get most of the test scores. Plan a schedule that considers both the time duration of the examination and the types of questions they contain. For instance, essay questions will take longer to complete than multiple-choice or matching questions. Be alert always on the time duration.
On the exam, look for situations when some sections are worth more marks than others. For instance, there are 21 questions on each test, 10 of which are True/False, 10 of which are multiple-choice, and 1 of which is an essay question. The essay question is worth 30 marks, the T/F questions are worth 1 mark each with 10 marks in total, the multiple-choice questions are worth 20 points, and each T/F question is for 1 point. The candidate needs to be conscious of the importance of the essay question because it is worth half the mark of the total score allotted for the exam. It is very important to schedule the writing time for each section accordingly. To make the most of your exam time, do a brief time analysis. Since the essay question is important, the candidate must devote more time to it. But, enough time has to be allotted to finish the T/F and multiple-choice questions.
Often, the examination, for instance, would be conducted in the following order: T/F first,followed by multiple-choice questions, and then an essay. The majority of students would complete the examination in chronological order, but one can also begin with the essay or at least focus on the essay question and write the outline for it with key points before moving on to the other portions of the test. For example, if the test has a 40-minute time limit, a student may allot 15-20 minutes to the essay question, ten minutes to the multiple-choice questions, three to five minutes to the true/false questions, and then five or ten minutes can be allotted to answer any question that they may have overlooked, and to assess their work.
4.5.3 Writing Answers Strategically
Writing excellent answers in the English language will help students score high grades or marks. Constant effort in reading and writing practices would sharpen one’s ability in writing English with good quality and skill. Preparing notes and understanding the ideas and concepts of different points of the respective subjects will make it easier for students to write down the answers in examinations confidently. It will also help to create a constant flow while writing the answers without much break or stagnation. It will also increase the candidate’s confidence in developing good English sentences in the answer sheet.
4.5.4 Tips for Writing Good Answers
Here are some tips for writing good answers in the examinations:
a. The answers should be written in complete sentences.
In open-ended questions, the answers must be written in full sentences. Exceptions are allowed in some question types like filling charts, drawing diagrams, etc. Remember that two important parts make for a complete sentence: subject and predicate. For example, if a question is asked; Explain some of the key characteristics of the Constitution of India, the answer must be written in complete sentences. The answer can be started like this: Some of the key characteristics of the Constitution of India are… or with any other structure which makes a complete sentence. Now, try to answer the following question: Are all words in the English language originated from Britain?
b. Consider the length of answers.
It is common to worry about how much to write when faced with an open-ended test question. The expected size of your answer can be estimated by the number of lines on the exam. If you use large handwriting, a normal sentence will take up about one and a half lines. If you write in small letters, a normal sentence will occupy one line. Thus, if you need to compose in 4 or 5 lines, you should only compose about 3 or 4 sentences. You should generally write one or two paragraphs if you are given an entire page to answer one question. You should write at least three paragraphs, preferably more, if you are given two pages to answer one question. For instance, questions like What are the processes for choosing the Members of Parliament of India? should be answered in at least two or three paragraphs. Though the answer in only one sentence, like, There are many elements involved in choosing the Member of Parliament of India, is correct, it is not the proper answer.
c. Respond to what is asked.
Although answering the question may look simple, you must give attention to writing only what is asked in the question. Respond directly to the question. Avoid giving vast information about irrelevant things if it will not help answer the question. Including unrelated details in the answer sheet without giving a direct answer or excluding the actual answer will only negatively affect the grading of the answer sheet. Further, there would also appear some situations in which you know the answer but while writing the answer, you unwantedly start writing content that is not directly related to the question. On such occasions, you may sometimes miss writing the actual response or the time allotted for the exam would be over, leading to the loss of the valuable mark or grade allotted for the question. Over-explanation of some points while answering the question may also result in being unable to write other relevant points which are the essential components of the answer because of the time restriction.
d. Relevance of Mechanics
The rules being followed in the different components of writing, such as spelling, punctuation, capitalisation, and abbreviations, are known as writing mechanics in the composition of sentences. Mechanics also relates to proper grammar usage and appropriate word choice while writing.
The proper arrangement of letters to create words is known as the spelling in written language. You can employ mnemonic device, a type of memory aid, to increase your spelling abilities. Furthermore, you can develop your reading comprehension, compile a list of words you often misspell or highlight words in a dictionary that you find difficult. Also, using proper punctuation while writing also enhances the effectiveness of your composition. Punctuations are used as sets of symbols to structure writings and make their meanings clear. It is most often used to separate or join words, phrases and clauses.
The use of capital letters in writing is known as capitalization, which has a great effect on proper arrangement of sentences. In general, proper nouns, important words in titles, and sentence openings are capitalised. Remember that if you write good answers to open-ended questions with just one or two minor errors in sentence usage or spelling, you will still score good marks. However, you will score a low grade if you are careless and make multiple errors.
e. Substantiate Answer with Details
This is the most significant point to remember while you respond to open-ended questions, especially in long answers. To give support for the answer means the addition of details that clarify or provide details regarding your response. You can write supporting details for your answer either from the reading texts and materials which you studied for examination, or you can add the details according to the situation. Giving valid examples or substantiating your answer with theories, ideas and factual information will ensure better grades. Such kinds of details are most beneficial in the type of questions that demand both factual information and critical thinking in your answers.
4.5.5 Tackling Different Types of Questions
The following is discription of diffrent types of questions and the methods to answer them.
a. Problem-Solving Questions
The key technique to winning success in any exam is to practise self-testing, especially for problem-solving questions. Doing lots of problem-solving exercises to prepare for examinations will make similar questions easier to answer. Try to solve new problems and understand the solving tips and techniques instead of memorising the entire solution.
During the examination, identify what you need to get, and what is the missing information. Examine whether drawing a mark or shading with colour will be beneficial. Note each component of the question as well. Remember that you will lose marks if you do not respond to all parts given in a question. Choose a strategy for resolving the problem question. Make a list of all applicable formulas.
Implement the method you have formed for solving the question. Try to guess an answer first while solving numerical questions. Later on, you can check your original answer with what you have guessed. Cross-checking your answers is also very important. You have to use the same level of logic that was employed to write down your solution in the answer sheet. Rework the answer if it does not seem correct.
b. Multiple Choice Questions
In the multiple choice questions section,you have to read initially the stem: the problem that the candidate has to answer using multiple choice. Make sure you identify what is being asked and what could be the answer from the multiple options given. Try to think of the right answer before you check the available options. This assumption will aid you in identifying the options that are related or similar to the correct answer, and then finally come up with the actual answer by reading the choices carefully.
In the stem, look for hints that point to the right answer. For instance, you can exclude any singular answer if the stem indicates that the answer is plural. Here, the fundamental requirement is that the correct answer must make grammatical sense when combined with the stem. Options that fail this criterion can be removed from the list of possible answers. Revisit the questions that you were unsure about. If there is any question you are doubtful about, mark it. Review these doubtful questions if you have time after finishing the test. Reading other questions and answering them may help you to get clues or even the correct choice for the questions you were doubtful about.
c. Essay Questions
Practising essay writing is the best approach to getting ready for essay questions. Expect questions which are most likely to be asked and practise for the same. With the help of your course materials, create outlines for possible essay subjects so that you will get an idea of what might be asked in the exam. Write at least one complete essay as practice; keep track of the time you spend practising and consider how much time you will have for the exam.
It is essential to have an idea about the structure of your essay. For instance, if you are requested to differentiate between the two theories in relation to a certain problem, you might need to explain each theory, describe the problem, and then conduct a comparative analysis. Remember that you will have to keep in your memory the important occasions, details, and people for supporting your claims in the essay.
Even intelligent students sometimes submit their answer book without reviewing what they have written and it results in the loss of valuable marks or grade points. Here comes the relevance of proof-reading. Correct any spelling errors and add any further comments you feel are important to include by proof-reading your answers as thoroughly as you can. You’ll be astonished at what you will find in those final moments. This is your last opportunity to include the quotation, make a list of additional important points, or perhaps quickly sketch a diagram.