Exam Writing Advice

On 04/15/2010, in Formal Education, by Jordan Wilson

Aimed at law school exam writers.

But it is equally applicable for any exam that involves practical application questions.

Questions that are typically found on accounting, finance, and tax exams as well as law.

To Mr. Kerr’s advice, I would add:

Read the exam question first. Clearly understand what is expected by the professor.

Then read the material provided. Some of the information may be irrelevant; an intentional red herring to throw you. By knowing what is actually required you can focus on the key parts of the reading and better use your time.

As you read, make notes in the margins and highlight key issues.

Keep a separate sheet to note any “short-snappers.” Minor issues that require a sentence or two to deal with. Easy marks, but many people run out of time and miss them. So jot them down quickly as you read the material, then attach this sheet to the end of your analysis.

Once read through, collect your thoughts (some people make outlines) and then start to answer the question. Prioritize the issues and address the key topics first. But allocate your time so that you can adequately cover each major issue.

Note that when assessing various options, doing nothing is always a possibility. On exams, usually not the best course of action. But do not forget to consider it.

Aim every word you write at hitting the answer key. Do not waste words or sentences.

Make your point. Then state why it is relevant. Then move on to the next issue. Do not fall into the trap of spending too much time on any one issue.

For those of you currently writing final exams, the best of luck!

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