Are we Actually Answering the Question?


How does our writing rate on the "Crap-O-Meter" ?

We often take the path of least resistance. In nature electricity and heat follow the materials of least resistance. Spilt water follows the easiest way to get to the lowest point. This is all to do with using the least energy.

As you know, people often follow the path that is the least work and causes the least stress. We can easily make this mistake when answering an exam question. In this stressful environment, when writing we can get on to a line of thought then follow it because it feels comfortable. We can write lots of words very quickly because it feels right and it feels easy. We feel less stressed when we do this.

However, have we actually answered the right question? What about the right sub-questions?

What really is stressful is when we finish this exam question and then find that we have not actually answered what they are after. Man, I did this a lot as a student!

Here I recommend using the "Stucture technique." For each exam question; we quickly develop the structure of the answer as our first step.

The Foundation or Structure of our Answer.

The foundation is the most boring part of a house but is also the most important. The foundation is under the house so you can not even see it. However, without a good foundation the house will always have a problem. There will be cracks and other problems that will be very expensive to fix.

The education your child is getting now can be the foundation for a great work life.

In an exam, the structure we develop for an answer is the foundation that sets up our writing. If the structure of our answer is flawed, then our answer will have problems.

So, even though just writing straight away feels less stressful and the easiest thing to do, there is a chance that it may lead to our answer having problems, as we have not set up a good structure.

So, I recommend that, before writing the answer to a complex question, students should first quickly lay out a simple structure to their answer on the notes page in the left hand side. They could use a mind-map. Then spend a moment to reread the question and consider this structure to ensure that they feel they are answering it in the right way.

The Crap Test.

I also recommend that after students have written 10% of the answer they stop and go back to check if their structure is right and that they are actually answering the question. I like to call this technique a “Crap Test.” We can do this several times during our writing of a long answer.

Students need to check to make sure that what they have written so far is not simply a "pile of crap" ;-).