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How to answer exam questions

7 key tips for answering exam questions

How you answer exam questions in the exam hall greatly determines your examination success. The importance of acquiring this skill cannot be over-emphasized. The way you present the answers to your exam questions determines the how well you will be marked. If you are to obtain an outstanding grade in any exam, beyond studying properly and revising for your exams adequately, you’d have to write to make your reader, in this case your lecturer or examiner enjoy what you’ve written.


This is because the impression you give to your examiner while he or she marks your answer script will determine to a great extent how you will be scored. In order to help you develop the skill of answering exam questions properly, I have enumerated seven tips below on how to answer exam questions:

1. Make sure you read the exam instructions carefully:

Reading the examination instructions before you begin to answer any questions or even attempt anything at all is simply wisdom because instructions just as in the manual of a newly purchased electrical gadget serve as a guide on how to proceed to write your exams. ‘He that starts his exams by first going through the instructions and then following them has started preparing himself for a good result’. I guess I should state that reading exam instructions should be seen as a ‘must do’ when writing any exams whatsoever.


2.  Always begin the questions you know best:

Beginning with the questions you are best acquainted with is a sure way to put your examiner in the right mood while he marks your paper. Why is this so? It is so because every writer or orator knows that your reader or listener as the case may be quickly begins to lose interest in what you’re writing or talking about when he or she senses hesitation that results from inadequate knowledge about the topic being written or spoken about. Not just that, starting with the questions you know best gives you confidence to go on and tackle the other questions you know less about.

3. Be as brief as possible while stating the main points:

Many students usually assume this advice to mean that they should answer a question such as ‘explain the process of making juice’ in two or three lines. C’mon, the word ‘explain’ means ‘to give details about something’. Being as brief as possible in the exam situation means focusing on the main points, those blue-prints that once seen would give your examiner a quick idea about what you’re trying to talk about and tell him or her that you know what you’re writing. Write all that you know about that question but do it with as much reasonable brevity as possible.

4. Make your answers captivating and attention-grabbing to your examiner:

Write the answers to your questions while thinking like a reader. If you know your examiners who might be your lecturers, then you should also have an idea about his personality traits and how he may react to how your answers have been written down. An impatient lecturer will want to see the main points you have for him first before any other elaboration. A meticulous and detail-loving examiner will want you to pen-down all the possible details. For essay questions, first arranging your points before you begin to answer also helps to make you work organized. Think like an examiner while answering exam questions.

5. Write down answers legibly and neatly:

Many of us have heard this time and time again while writing our exams but very few students understand the implication of this important skill. Writing legibly also goes a long way to determine the attitude of your examiner to your answer script which off course determines how well you will be scored. If it means taking a course in handwriting or doing the training yourself, you will surely need to know how to write neatly and legibly during examinations. Arrange your points and answers in a way that will reduce the examiner’s stress in trying to read your answer script.

6. Let the answers stand out:

By this I mean, writing down your answers in such a way that the examiner will easily locate them. This is especially applicable to questions involving calculations, requiring you to provide final answers. I recommend using a rectangular box to enclose your answers or writing them bolder than other text on your answer script (e.g. 24.70 meters). For answers to questions that are sentences enclosed in a larger body of text, you may underline them so that your examiner can easily locate them.

7. Choose questions carefully:

In cases where you are given optional questions to choose from, scan through the questions first and examine them before you begin to answer. It is advisable to answer questions that will take you less time to answer rather than those ones that will involve more time and thought. Ensure you weigh your options properly as quickly as possible while considering factors such as questions you can answer better and those you can answer faster before you begin to attempt them.

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