How to write an examination to get great marks

ThumbsUpIn my yesterday’s post, I said I have tips on “how to write the answers that compel an examiner to give marks”. I was not sure if I should, but reader Dinesh Gajjar said that he was eager to see the tips, so here goes.

First of all, let me tell you something about the examiners. I have been one and have met with a lot of others and hence IMHO will be able to throw some light on them and their psychology.

First of all, they are human beings and don’t like to give low marks to anyone. They are in fact our allies. They are really on a lookout for reasons to give you marks.

Second, they are overworked and underpaid. Teaching is very rewarding, but checking papers is probably the least likable part of the profession. Added to that, it’s not very remunerative. An SSC examiner for a 100 marks paper would be paid about ten rupees. Even if we assume that it takes approximately ten minutes for one answer book, the teacher is getting paid about 60 rupees an hour, which is lower than what a rickshaw driver makes. I don’t mean to demean the profession of driving a rickshaw, but a teacher is definitely much more knowledgeable.

Thirdly, they are very conscientious people, and would want to do complete justice to their work and to the student.

If we understand this, then we can derive the technique for writing a paper that compels the teacher to give marks. The paper should be written in such a manner that the examiner can quickly find things in the answer paper to give marks and shouldn’t have to think before giving them. Here are some tips about how to do that.

Have a structure to the answer: Let the thoughts in an answer follow a logical structure, an order, a cause effect relationship. Once the examiner gets a feel for the structure and starts following along, he will feel comfortable with the answer and will give marks.

Make the structure apparent: Write the answer such that the structure in your answer becomes easy to understand and follow. It’s possible to do it by using paragraphs, indentations, using highlights, capitalizing etc.

Make the key concepts easily visible: This overlaps with the earlier point. Use highlighting, indentations, underlines so the key concepts are easily visible. This is very useful. In a 100 word answer, there are probably just 20 words that are key ideas. The remaining words are supporting words, add no value. The 80:20 principles applies here too.

Look at this post, don’t you think you get an idea of what the whole para says, by reading the bold words at the beginning of the para?

By making the concepts visible, you are helping the examiner understand the whole answer by reading just 20% of the words. He will save 80% of his time and would reward you for that saving. Smile

Picture is worth a 1000 words: You have heard this before in many contexts, but it’s very true in exams, particularly exams in which diagrams can really showcase your understanding like science, geography etc. I will use a picture here to make my point.

LocomotionOfHydraThe picture on the side shows the “somersault” locomotion of hydra. The corresponding explanation of this would take about a page of writing. Let’s imagine two cases. Case 1 – you write only the page long explanation. Case 2 – You write the page long explanation AND draw the diagram. I bet, you will get more marks in case 2. From examiner’s point of view, he will check the case 2 in about 10 seconds, whereas he would need to spend about 2 minutes to read your answer in case 1.

Hope these are useful. Please share any techniques that you may be using.

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35 Responses to How to write an examination to get great marks

  1. honey says:

    Its fine…good..but it should have contain more points…n ideas…..but it was good it helped me

  2. Niraj says:

    Thnku so much makarand sir it was very useful

  3. Sudarshan Vaishnav says:

    Thanks for these tips………. surely these would help the students who seek help for scoring more marks in exams. the main of all is the self-confidence that is required forr acquiring marks more than you have ever imagined………

  4. Shrenik Khairnar says:

    It was helpful. Nice. You explained it easily and clearly.

  5. jc says:

    Some lecturers don’t like you under lining words and mark you down for it and oh god especially if they are female. Medical school I wrote an exam we had to give signs and symptoms and so I did but never got marked for it again its a female lecturer… and even worse they keep on giving you a low mark because they don’t like you. I prefer online tests where there is no discrimination.

  6. padmaja says:

    sir, i am very enthusiastic in writing articles.can you please suggest me how to do and on what topics we have to write especially for management students.

  7. padmaja says:

    sir,i am persuing my mba and can you please tell me how to score best marks in the examination.please describe it from top to bottom sir. if possible please attach answered paper so that i can understand

  8. Vishu choudhary says:

    Sir plz tell me how can i attempt all question in the exam ….always my questns left and time over..i m 2nd yr studnt nd i have above 70% hand writing is so good..plz suggest me as soon as

  9. Punit Bhagat says:

    really big thank u sir…

  10. Arshid Ganie says:

    Write only main points with examples

  11. Vishal says:

    thank you this advice will help a lot in exams

  12. kaveri says:

    it was really a great job..thanks a lot i will definitely make your words in action…………you are great thanks…thanks a lot…..

  13. vishvam says:

    thanks 4 ur advices ,i think i owe u an excellent result……..many thanks

  14. vaishu says:

    1 tip from my side: keep your mind peaceful dont feel tense while writting exam

  15. Naman says:

    Thanks for these good ideas it really helped me…………

  16. aaditysony says:

    It was a very well written blog and a knowledge enhancing article .But i want to add on some more tips for the students to get good marks in an examination.
    1-Students should read the question paper carefully and then begin answering from the highest value questions.
    2-Only start attempting the question from where you are feeling quite confident to answer, this way you will be able to keep your enthusiasm by answering the question of your comfort zone.
    3-Before attempting to any question try to make some rough notes of that particular question.This will help you to get the instant idea about that particular question.


  17. swathi says:

    how would like 2 knw ,,,how studentz should write inthr examz???

  18. Manish says:

    Fear of scoring low in Language subject –

    Makarand sir, finishing first language paper was always my crib. I would never complete the paper until my 10th standard. I started believing that this paper is never meant to be solved completely. 😀 I feel many people also have the same belief. I am sharing my experience (my mistakes which I worked on) here to add to what you already said. My class teacher was great help to me to find out what is going wrong with me.

    1. When I get the question paper, chose the subject of the essay. Earlier I use to move to essay at the end, where under the time pressure, I would never finish it. If I have confidence in the subject for the essay, I would keep my paper first 2 pages empty where I would write my essay. Typically, use first 2-3 minutes to put down the points that I want to cover in the essay on rough paper that I carry in. I would keep adding the points during other parts of the exam.

    2. Question that need a brief explanation – Start answers with the reference of the topic, explaining who is author/poet and his overall intention in the topic/poetry. This should not be more than 3-4 lines. Next, just give enough (really small) background about the scenario in question and quickly get to the point. This definitely gives the examiner a clue about what student is going to cover in his answer. I calculated how much time I would spend on such questions, everyone has their own comfort levels.

    3. First attempt questions in which I have confidence. I chose the sequence as grammar, brief answers, explanatory, then writing essay and letter. Choose your comfort.

    4. FINALLY, Have a good balance of study for Language subjects as well along with Science, Social sciences and Mathematics subjects. Just overcome the inclination to only specific subjects. Prepare well!

  19. Thanks 4 All ideas……..which is gvn by u 4 All stdnts,
    i hope it will works 4 evry1 to get GOOD Marks.

    ~thanx Again~

  20. Pingback: Happy new year 2012 | Makarands Musings

  21. swathi says:

    im swati from bangalore..studying in vijaya a student studying 11th std..thanks a lot …for the pain u have taken to enlist ur memories and beautiful tips to write the exam and get the better marks……i will definitely implement ur words into actions.

  22. Dinesh Gajjar says:

    Thanks for tips for how to write better in exam.

    I always wanted to know the thinking behind allotting marks in paper and Psychology of Teacher, how he/she thinks about it. Thanks for sharing it.

    As a student, i had listen complains from other friends and students about not giving due marks for specific question or paper. (and you must have listen too or someone may have complained about you 😉 ). But when we complain, we forget about key point. And that is – examination is just another medium of COMMUNICATION where we have to PROVE to the TEACHER that yes I know this. Its is similar to Power point presentation. To score in exam, knowing is not enough, it is also important – how student explains to the teacher with limited resource (time), and covers up all the points so that he/she convince the teacher that this student knows the answer very well.

    And writing good answer is achieved by practice only. And thats why student should try to attend exams. Personally, I never scored 100/100. I knew my limitation for paper writing speed, and to improve that – i started self examination (in 12th exam) where i seat in separate room, at given time and answer the paper (in 3hours). By end of my exam, i knew that i have done bad in this part and took more time at given point of time.

    And if we widen the scope and don’t stick to the written exams only, we can summarize that exam is nothing but a combination of knowledge and good presentation skill. and A good presentation is achieved by practice.

    When you written this (and previous) blog, all my memories came forward to my mind – the improvement process i passed through.

    Thank you for bringing this point in light.

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