Essay-based questions can seem intimidating and can be quite tricky if you don’t know where to start. But if you have a plan and lots of practice under your belt, they can be much easier and less stressful. Our path to success is understanding the questions, what the examiners want and doing loads of practice questions to get good at delivering that. This will help you stay focused and breeze through your essays stress-free.
Understanding the questions
- Read through the questions carefully so that you understand what the question is asking for.
- Highlighting key words will help you recognise what the question is asking for – you may recognise some of them if you look at marking guides.
- If you have multiple topics to choose from, evaluate them and weigh out the pros and cons of each option.
Knowing what the examiners want
- You can also look at past marking schemes to see what the exam board is wanting to see in your answer – there will often be specific criteria listed that you can aim for.
- Look at the number of marks assigned to each question so that you have an idea of how much you need to write and the importance of this section.
Tips for practising
- Doing past papers or mock exam questions is the best way to practise writing your answers – your teachers will be able to give you these if you ask them.
- Analyse the question that’s on the paper and what it is asking you to do.
- Plan the points you want to make in your essay and organise your structure, to ensure you can use your time efficiently and give a concise answer.
- We recommend you start by focusing on quality first and taking as long as you need to answer the practise questions.
- Once your teacher has approved the quality of your writing you can work on decreasing your time – work out how long you can take for each question and set a timer while you practise.
- Don’t worry if it takes a while before you’re hitting your goals as you will improve with practice. Remember to ask your friends or teachers for feedback and help if you’re struggling.
Following these tips will have a massive impact on your stress levels and performance. Having a better understanding of what’s required and how long it takes you to get there will help you efficiently include everything you need to sail through these important questions. Make sure to check out our article on exam techniques and our essential self-care guide for exam season too, and before you know it you’ll be that smug friend boasting about your lack of exam jitters!