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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mistake 10

Producing an Incoherent Answer:

One of the worst things you can do to put off the teacher or examiner marking your paper is to write incoherently. That is, your thoughts and ideas are badly expressed and very difficult for the marker to understand. In short, your writing does not make sense.

Imagine that you are the person who has to mark hundreds of test or exam papers. You could be very tired by the time you reach for another paper to mark. Then to your horror, you realise that this particular student’s answers are incoherent. You have to read and re-read each of his or her answers before you understand what he or she is trying to say. Worst of all, you may not even understand what he or she is trying to say!

In situations like this, how would you grade the student’s answers? Would you want to spend more time on his or her other similarly incoherent answers? Probably not.

The thing about incoherent writing is that students who write like that do not realise that only they themselves understand what they are writing about!

The only way to make sure that you do not write incoherently in a test or exam paper is to write more often. Below are the suggested measures:

  1. Write an essay on any topic you want.
  2. Check through your essay at least twice to make sure that you yourself understand what you are writing.
  3. Ask somebody who has a better command of English than you (e.g., your friends, classmates, teachers or family members) to proofread your essays for you. The more persons you can get to proofread your essays, the better.
  4. Find out which parts of your essay they have understood and which parts they have difficulty understanding.
  5. Ask them how you could have rewritten those parts that they do not understand.
  6. Ask yourself whether their suggested rewriting of those parts is easier to understand than what you have written.
  7. Discover where you have gone wrong in your initial write-up and try not to repeat such mistakes again in future.
  8. Proceed to step 1 above and repeat the process.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Mistake 9

Misinterpreting a Question:

"What are the consequences of a poor diet?"

Imagine you are answering the above question. A quick definition of what make a good diet and a poor diet in your first paragraph would make a good start in your answer. You should then dive into the specific results of a poor diet.

Had you written more about the examples of what make a good diet and a poor diet, including the calories count and nutritional values of various foods, you would be writing something that is uncalled for.

Had you proceeded to talk about the importance of having a good diet, the disadvantages of a poor diet, the reasons why widespread poor diets exist in some countries, or the circumstances leading to a poor diet, you would be writing out of point.

All that could happen because you have not understood the question, or you have misinterpreted it. Misinterpreting a question can cost you dearly in a test or exam. This is especially if the question is worth 10 or 20 marks out of 100. You would be spending precious time producing an incorrect answer at the possible expense of other questions.

The only way to avoid misinterpreting a question is to read through the question at least twice. Underline the key words in the question. Make sure you understand what those keywords mean. Some examples of keywords which some students have problems with are:
  • Describe
  • Outline
  • State
  • List
  • Explain
  • Evaluate
  • Discuss
Where a question contains a few parts, and your answer to two of the parts are similar, you must immediately realise that you have misinterpreted at least one of the partial questions. Proceed to correct your answers.

In case of doubts, you may try to ask the teacher or examiner what the question is asking for. Although teachers and examiners are often not allowed to explain the questions in a test or exam to students, some teachers and examiners are very kind and may help you.