What is the examiner looking for and a 10 point plan for sitting comfortably…
For many years now, we have delivered online courses to prepare candidates of ICS professional shipping exams via coracleonline.com. Maritime students have studied with us in locations all over the world (nearly 70 countries at the last count) and over the years we’ve accumulated a store of useful advice and tips gathered from research, former students and examiners that really amounts to a how-to guide to exams.
Although the ICS exams are done and dusted until April 2015, the bulk of the education and professional exam world is turning its thoughts to summer exams and as we prepare to launch new and updated versions of the courses on our popular Learning Line platform, we thought we’d take the opportunity to share what we think is some of the best advice for learners looking to succeed.
Understanding what a question is driving at is fundamental to exam success, but all too often we hear candidates express despair at their grade, all because they essentially gave the wrong answer. These candidates are convinced they’ve answered the question, but their exam technique has let them down.
Hopefully this post will help ensure that you don’t fall for any of the common traps.
One of the most seen mistakes is not answering a question in a precise fashion. Concise and precise is better than rambling and wrong.
If you try too hard to show off your wider knowledge, you may run the risk of answering a question too generally. Be sure to get the specifics down on paper first, after all, that’s what the examiner told you he wanted. If you have time and want to expand, that’s fine, but be sure to get the marks on offer first.
Exam questions are written using a form of code.
If you know how to read the code, you’ll find the task of answering the questions much easier.
If the examiner is looking for general knowledge only on a topic, such that you know how to break information into parts or determine values, they may use words such as define, describe, identify, list, recognise, select, state, reference, categorise, measure, value, give examples, outline, classify, summarise and discuss.
If the examiner is looking for you to demonstrate that you understand something, such that you can apply the knowledge you have by putting theory into practice, they may use words such as apply, use, discover, manage, execute, solve, produce, implement, construct, change, prepare, conduct, perform, react, respond, analyse, consider, compare, contrast, differentiate, quantify, explain, test, examine, illustrate, demonstrate, extrapolate, use examples, generate, revise, assemble, re-arrange and modify.
If the examiner is looking for you to show that you thoroughly understand something, such that you can reflect on and criticise theories, concepts and information, they may use words such as evaluate, review, justify, assess, present a case for, investigate, appraise, argue, develop, theorise, formulate, propose, establish, critique, determine, estimate, propose, create, design and calculate.
Examples show clarity.
Examiners don’t like having chunks of course material quoted back to them. They are not that interested in testing your memory function, they are interested in testing your understanding. Examples give you an opportunity to apply what you’re learnt.
We published this list in a previous post, but it is worth re-visiting as these words always come up in questions:
- Advantages and Disadvantages: To look at the beneficial and negative outcomes of something
- Analyse: To determine the elements, features and possible outcomes of a concept
- Apply: To make a theory relevant and suitable within a chosen example. To put a concept into action
- Assess: To determine the effect, results or reasons for something
- Comment: Observations, expansions, criticisms and thoughts, premised on knowledge about a particular issue or concept
- Compare and contrast: Identify the similarities and differences between two or more objects, issues, concepts
- Consider: To reflect on an event or piece of information leading towards the proposal of a solution
- Define: Identify the central qualities of something and determine its meaning
- Describe: Use details and examples to outline the key characteristics
- Differentiate: To recognise the unique features and characteristics of an issue, concept or object and to establish how it is different from something else
- Discuss: To consider and examine via argument
- Examine: To scrutinise and investigate an issue or concept carefully
- Explain: Provide detail that makes an issue or concept clear. To interpret information and determine its meaning
- Identify: To recognise the main features of an issue, object or concept
- Illustrate: Make an issue or concept clear using examples (this does not necessarily mean you are required to draw something)
- Predict: Use a variety of factors to determine a possible future outcome
As a last point, on a broader technique note, many of us sit at a desk to work and study, so adjusting your seating position is worth getting right.
Here’s our 10 point plan for sitting comfortably:
- Adjust your seat height so that your thighs are parallel to the floor, with your feet flat on the floor.
- There should be 2 inches between the back of your knees and the front of the seat.
- The backrest should fit the small of your back.
- Try to leave the recline lock off, but adjust recline tension to suit you.
- The backrest should support your upper body when you lean back.
- Keep your mouse close to your keyboard and avoid anchoring your wrist on the desk.
- Your monitor should be an arm’s length away, or more, with the top line of text slightly below eye level.
- Keep your monitor and spacebar aligned with the middle of your body.
- A light on the opposite side of the desk from your writing hand, pointing away from the monitor should give good illumination of papers.
- Take a break! It’s amazing how restorative a couple of 30-60 second breaks per hour can be.