Effective Exam Presentation Tips
In every exam, there are always marks given for presentation, they are the 3 or 4 marks that could be the difference between a pass or a fail.
Professional communication skills and capabilities are expected by employers so it is key that such qualities are demonstrated in an examination setting in order to gain these marks. You will need to be aware of the structure of the exam in advance to be aware of where these professional marks are allocated.
Planning your answer properly and presenting it clearly is another critical component to success. While you’re planning how your answer should be structured, consider what format it should be in and how long each part should be.
Professional marks are available for:
- Logical flow and structure.
- Appropriate tone and language.
- Presenting a convincing argument.
Points to note:
- Read the requirement! Make sure you provide what you are asked for - Letter, Report, Memo etc.
- Use appropriate salutations such as "Sir" or "Madame" when writing a letter.
- Who is the audience? Do they have a financial or non-financial background? Do you have to provide facts or influence them?
- When do you write in the 1st or 3rd person? When writing a report use the 1st person, when constructing an argument use the 3rd person.
- Ensure you understand the layout of computational questions and the layout of the key statements whether it be a Statement of Financial Position, Cash Flow Statement, Corporation Tax Computation, or a Flexed Budget etc. It is essential to include all your workings in your answer.
- Always put the question number at the top of each page.
- Introduction - this should be 2 sentences to set the context i.e. what I am going to provide in my answer.
- Headings - group appropriate points under common headings,
- Be professional in your language. No slang or abbreviations. Write respectfully and ask yourself, "Would I speak/write this in my job?"
- Ensure the points made in your answer run in a logical order.
- Indent the text of your answer to include important points.
- Use bullet points.
- Do not scatter question parts from the same question throughout your answer booklet. If you are stuck with a question, leave a space in your answer booklet and return to it later - white space in this case is a good thing.
- Your answer must be specific to the scenario in hand; use the names of people and organisations from the question.
- Beware of paragraphs that are too long - use shorter concise sentences.
- Always use a "linking" sentence to connect topics and paragraphs, this makes your answer much more professional, for example, "Having covered these arguments for topic X, I will now move onto the key issues in situation Y."
- Conclusion - state your suggested course of action, but you can also mention the counter argument. Be persuasive! But never repeat things, even in the concluding paragraph. You can only get the marks once, no matter how many times you repeat the same point.
- Put yourself in an examiner's shoes and ask, "What impresses an examiner?" Imagine that you are spending your evenings and weekends ploughing through 100's of exam answers - because that's what examiners do.
- The examiner will get frustrated if he cannot read your writing. A badly written answer takes a long time to read, and by the time the examiner has ploughed through it they will have forgotten half of what you said. That's bad news for you! Don't try to obscure your lack of knowledge (e.g. a technical term) by illegible writing. If it cannot be read, it cannot get marks.
- If you know your handwriting is difficult for others to read, train yourself to write more clearly and it’s preferable to use black ink.
- Underline key words or phrases. After reading through the whole answer, an examiner looks back at the number of ticks he/she has made, or the number of key words or phrases that you have identified. If you highlight these then the impression is favourable so you will have the chance of get more marks.
It is very important to practice the techniques above by completing past papers under time pressure and I would encourage reviewing prior year examiners reports.
Those marks for presentation could be the 3 or 4 marks that you need.