Answering the question
Often you hear the old mantra 'answer the question', yet just as
often candidates genuinely believe they have answered the question
and do not fully understand where they have gone wrong. There are a
few things that you can think about to help you avoid the most
common examination trap.
The most frequent mistake candidates make is to read the
question but not tailor their response or make it precise. Instead,
answers often address the topic generally rather than the question
specifically. This is sometimes because the candidate is nervous,
but often it is because they want to show off their knowledge. The
marker, however, does not want you to talk generally about an issue
demonstrating that you understand every piece of information. They
have asked you a question, and they want you to answer it. You need
to therefore work towards understanding what a question is
As an example the question below is from the Liner
Trades exam in 2008:
Letters of credit are the 'lifeblood' of international trade
and the different types of letters of credit are of benefit to
both the buyer and seller. Explain why you would agree or disagree
with the above statement and why the documentary credit system is
more popular outside the EU Single Market.
In the examiner's report for this paper, it was identified
as a very popular question that was often poorly
This question wants the candidate to focus on two things:
- A discussion on whether letters of credit can be described as
the 'lifeblood' of international trade and the benefit they have to
both buyer and seller
- An explanation on why the documentary credit system is more
popular outside the EU Single Market
A lot of people would have entered into a general discussion on
letters of credit and the process of a bill of lading in an effort
to show off their knowledge to the examiner. These people would
have extracted from the question an outline of the topic, but not
gone further to establish exactly what the examiner was looking
To avoid this, you really need to not only read the question but
also establish what the question requires you to do. One tip to
think about is instead of just reading the question, take your pen
and highlight the main parts. Often questions have one or two main
components that you really need to address in your answer.
Sometimes (as is the case above) they start with a leader, which is
something for you to think about, not something for you to write
Getting ready for your exams?
We have put together a short video to
help you getting ready for your exams.
Have a look and good luck from the whole Head Office team.