Importance of analyzing the question carefully before writing

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The overriding time pressure of a written exam is probably a major reason why many students fail to carefully analyze a question before writing. What frequently happens is that five minutes into the allocated time for a particular question, you will notice that the person next to you is writing furiously.

The following thought then flashes through your mind, “oh my goodness, he/she’s putting down more words on the paper than I am, and therefore he/she is bound to get better marks.”

The next moment, you’re writing feverishly also. It can be unequivocally stated that there is no necessary correlation between the number of words on an exam paper and the marks that paper will receive.

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Students who begin their answer after only about five minutes of analysis have probably seen only the most obvious of issues. They are also likely to be very disorganized.

Opinions differ as to how much time should be spent analyzing and outlining a question before actually writing it. At least 15 to 20% of the time should be expended in analyzing, organizing and outlining a question (problem) before actually commencing the answer. These parameters will usually provide sufficient opportunity to analyze and organize the question thoroughly; yet permit a relatively complete answer.

It is important to remember that each word of the question (problem) must be scrutinized to determine if it: (1) could produce an issue when applied against the operative rules of law, or (2) has pertinence with respect to making an argument for the resolution of an issue.

Since you can’t receive points for an issue which is not perceived, it is usually wise to read a question (problem) twice before creating your outline.

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