Dissecting the Question.

Questions and "Sub-questions"

Obviously one of the things that most impacts the mark a student receives for a question is how much of the question they have answered.

Yes, this seems very obvious but it is an area where many students lose marks.

Generally an assignment question is made up of a number of parts, or “sub-questions.”

It is crucial that students "dissect" or "break down" the question into it's sub-questions.

At school, at university, and in many jobs we need to be able to break down the requirements of a task into it's components and then complete each one.

To illustrate this I will use a simple example. It may seem to be pretty dumb, but I like to use stupid examples as I feel it helps students remember techniques.

The Dumb Question:

I have 3 pets; a rat, a cat and a koala. What do you think they eat and where do they sleep?

This question has 6 parts or "Sub-questions."

To get full marks a student needs to answer all 6 sub-questions well.

Students need to structure their essay or report to answer all 6 parts.

I will use a mind-map to layout the problem. These are explained in the technique "Mind-Maps - Break a problem into it's Elements."

Here, there are two ways you can lay out the information. You group it either by animal or by activity. It does not matter which you use. The important thing is to put this amount of structure into the answer.

The next step is to lay out the report or essay. You convert the headings that your mind-map produces into the headings of your report or essay.

The answer could be something like:

To make a report look more professional you can add section numbers. This is particularly useful in laying out a complex report where there are lots of sub-questions.

Here I will use the structure given in this second mind map. It is grouped by activity and then by animal.

When you place the mind-map headings into your report, the answer could be something like:

You can see from this example that we are answering all 6 sub-questions. We have dissected the question and have answered each of its parts. If we were to miss one of these 6 parts we would probably miss out on 1/6 of the marks.

We have also laid it out in a way that is professional and should help the person marking it to find the information they are looking for. This should help students get more of the marks that are allocated to each of the sub-questions.