Premier Training tutor Alan Dawson outlines the best way to tackle written tasks in assessments….
SO it’s time to sit the course assessment. You’ve covered all the calculations and are feeling confident – but what about the written elements? These are often looked upon with dread, but if you understand the topics they offer you an opportunity to put on paper what you know.
Obviously, examiners are looking for good knowledge and understanding of the topics, but they don’t want a ‘shopping list’ of facts and figures.
Instead, they will want to know that you can arrange selected facts and communicate them effectively. The examiner is looking for your answer and not a copy of what it says in your study book. They are looking for relevant answers and not everything you know about the topic.
Make it easy for the examiner to read. Use paragraphs to separate ideas and make sure it follows a logical sequence.
Plan your answer before you start to write. It’s no good writing about the merits of different stock valuation methods until we know what methods are available.
Read the question
Make sure you read the question. This seems an obvious statement, but it’s common for candidates to give a good answer to the wrong question. If the question is on the limitations of ratio analysis, you won’t get any marks for only writing about how to calculate them.
Your written answer needs to give ‘added value’ to the question. If you are given a table of results and you are asked to comment on them you won’t get any marks for simply restating what the results are. The examiner knows what the results are because he has the question just as you do. Your comments on these results is what will gain the marks.
Read the question at least twice before you answer and at least once after. Make sure your answer is relevant. It doesn’t matter how clever you fell you’ve been at writing about the topic, if it’s irrelevant to the question it won’t get any marks.
Make sure you have answered all the question. If it asks for a description with examples you’ve only half answered if there are no examples. If you are asked to ‘evaluate’ then give both sides of the argument – both the bad points and the good.
Don’t waffle. This is where irrelevant information is given, or where you state the point over and over again. If it’s irrelevant leave it out; if you’ve made your point don’t make it again.
Address the important issues
You will lose marks for giving undue weight to unimportant points. You won’t get full marks if your answer is mostly about the controls needed because £5 is missing from petty cash, and you say relatively little about the £10,000 of inventory that is missing. Make sure you address the important issues as these will carry the most marks.
Relate your answer to the scenario given. You should write about how the figures affect this business. What will be the consequences for the company in the scenario? As a general rule, avoid bland statements which could apply to any situation.
Candidates often worry about this type of question because they don’t know what it says in the book about it – but remember, there will be no answers in the book. Whatever the question it will be, at least to some extent, different from those you’ve read before. The examiner wants your opinion related to this scenario.
These written tasks can be your opportunity to get high marks. Just stick to the following points:
- Know your topics. Make sure you understand why you are using the calculations rather than just being able to get the right answer.
- Read the question. Make sure you’ve answered all parts.
- Plan your answer. Don’t just write an answer without any structure.
- Give your own opinions and conclusions where relevant. Don’t rely on the answer in the book.