Essays remain an important method of assessment and enable examiners to discriminate between candidates, while also enabling candidates to display the skills and abilities which they possess.
As the essay paper has evolved it has become more demanding with much more emphasis on posing questions which allow candidates to display the higher order skills. The following identifies a pyramid of skills which examinations try to test.
The pyramid of skills: the bottom two layers are 'Lower-order skills', while the top four layers are 'Higher-order skills'.
As there is now less emphasis on testing the lower order skills this implies that it is not possible ...view middle of the document...
Use appropriate examples or formulae to illustrate and elaborate on your precise definition of a concept.
Usually more than a mere description is expected, instead a critical review of some particular set of circumstances or events is usually expected.
Consider the arguments for and against the issue raised in the question.
Candidates need to show that they understand the differences between two (probably frequently confused) concepts. Similarities and differences need to be discussed and illustrated in distinguishing between the two concepts.
'Do ...' or 'Does ...'
Make a judgement on whether on set of circumstances is preferable to another.
Make reasoned judgements about the validity of a particular argument or statement, presenting evidence and reasoned argument of all relevant issues involved.
Candidates need to unravel the events that led to a particular set of circumstances or the validity of the reasoning that underlies a particular point of view. Stress the relative importance of the different arguments and their relevance to the basic issue under consideration.
Interpret the meaning of a particular concept with an example to illustrate understanding.
Only a brief description is required. Usually there are follow up parts to this question.
'To what extent ...'
This implies there is no definite answer to the question posed. Present both sides of the argument and exercise judgement by stressing the strength of some arguments over others.
How to improve your technique: some general principles
• Essays need a structure
o jot down...