How To Write Essay In Competitive Exams

Political Science/JSIS/LSJ Writing Center
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Tips for Writing Essay Exams

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Before the Exam: Prepare and Practice

Writing a good essay requires synthesis of material that cannot be done in the 20-30 minutes you have during the exam. In the days before the exam, you should:
  • Anticipate test questions. Look at the question from the last exam. Did the question ask you to apply a theory to historical or contemporary events? Did you have to compare/contrast theories? Did you have to prove an argument? Imagine yourself in the role of the instructor--what did the instructor emphasize? What are the big ideas in the course?
  • Practice writing. You may decide to write a summary of each theory you have been discussing, or a short description of the historical or contemporary events you've been studying. Focus on clarity, conciseness, and understanding the differences between the theories.
  • Memorize key events, facts, and names. You will have to support your argument with evidence, and this may involve memorizing some key events, or the names of theorists, etc.
  • Organize your ideas. Knowledge of the subject matter is only part of the preparation process. You need to spend some time thinking about how to organize your ideas. Let's say the question asks you to compare and contrast what regime theory and hegemonic stability theory would predict about post-cold war nuclear proliferation. The key components of an answer to this question must include:
  • A definition of the theories
  • A brief description of the issue
  • A comparison of the two theories' predictions
  • A clear and logical contrasting of the theories (noting how and why they are different)
In the exam

Many students start writing furiously after scanning the essay question. Do not do this! Instead, try the following:
  • Perform a "memory dump." Write down all the information you have had to memorize for the exam in note form.
  • Read the questions and instructions carefully. Read over all the questions on the exam. If you simply answer each question as you encounter it, you may give certain information or evidence to one question that is more suitable for another. Be sure to identify all parts of the question.
  • Formulate a thesis that answers the question. You can use the wording from the question. There is not time for an elaborate introduction, but be sure to introduce the topic, your argument, and how you will support your thesis (do this in your first paragraph).
  • Organize your supporting points. Before you proceed with the body of the essay, write an outline that summarizes your main supporting points. Check to make sure you are answering all parts of the question. Coherent organization is one of the most important characteristics of a good essay.
  • Make a persuasive argument. Most essays in political science ask you to make some kind of argument. While there are no right answers, there are more and less persuasive answers. What makes an argument persuasive?
  • A clear point that is being argued (a thesis)
  • Sufficient evidenct to support that thesis
  • Logical progression of ideas throughout the essay
  • Review your essay. Take a few minutes to re-read your essay. Correct grammatical mistakes, check to see that you have answered all parts of the question.
Things to Avoid

Essay exams can be stressful. You may draw a blank, run out of time, or find that you neglected an important part of the course in studying for the test. Of course, good preparation and time management can help you avoid these negative experiences. Some things to keep in mind as you write your essay include the following:
  • Avoid excuses. Don't write at the end that you ran out of time, or did not have time to study because you were sick. Make an appointment with your TA to discuss these things after the exam.
  • Don't "pad" your answer. Instructors are usually quite adept at detecting student bluffing. They give no credit for elaboration of the obvious. If you are stuck, you can elaborate on what you do know, as long as it relates to the question.
  • Avoid the "kitchen sink" approach. Many students simply write down everything they know about a particular topic, without relating the information to the question. Everything you include in your answer should help to answer the question and support your thesis. You need to show how/why the information is relevant -- don't leave it up to your instructor to figure this out!



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Are you looking for better ways to manage your essay writing for the competitive exams? In this article I am going to explain some important tips to manage essay writing for the competitive exams.

There is no particular technique, not at least till date which can turn someone into a literacy prodigy, because prodigies are born rather than made. But "genius is 99 percent perspiration and one percent inspiration" is equally true. And today it is an acknowledge fact that writing technique can be improved with practice. There are special courses and lessons in writing improvement.

In managing your essay writing for competitive exams you must remember, there is nothing but one day wonder here. There is no substitute to hard work. No guidebooks can turn into a good essay writer.

Only you can yourself do it. Guidebooks and specialized lessons on writing may be able to give only the suggestions, but the real effort or practice will have to come from you.

However, the efforts you put may become misguided for want of a proper direction. The lessons and courses in writing provide that much needed direction.

A good essay writer has the following qualities, which should be cultivated by anyone desiring to write well.

Lucid writing: Anyone desiring to write well should try to cultivate a lucid writing style. Lucid style has a flow and is smooth to read. The word used by a lucid writer are generally the part our common vocabulary. Very difficult words are never used out of context and at best avoided. The writing an essay to follow and even a difficult subject is treated in a manner easy to flow.
In the competitive exams a lucid writing style will certainly be appreciated by the examiners. Therefore, it is better to avoid ornamental expressions and long sentences "Make your sentence as long as will not pinch the patients of the poor readers". Take this sentence. The author has tried to make an ornamental sentence, but has failed miserably.

This is what happens when ornamental sentences are made deliberately. In the process the author has made the sentence unnecessarily long while he is preaching just the opposite "Make your sentence short" is all that the author should have said. The sentence is short and says all except redundancy. Short sentence are less liable to be incorrect.

Wide reading: An impressive has lot to tell about its author. It reflects the author's command over the subject and the depth of his knowledge. Of course, no body is suggesting that you go for a wide reading a month or two before the examination. Nothing could be more disastrous to your score in the other papers, than this. But you have even six months left for your examination you can go for wide reading.

What constitutes a wide reading? Or, how wide is a wide reading? Well, wide could be really wide if you are an undergraduate as you naturally have quite a lot of time at your command for the widest possible reading. But this luxury may not be available to someone appearing in the examination next year. If you are appearing current year or next year, you may limit your reading to editorials and news magazines. In case you are a fast reader, you may go for fictions and non-fictions without cutting on your time. There is no fixed rule as to the presentation of any essay. However, there is a great deal of flexibility in the presentation and the style of writing an essay. Almost every essay will have three major parts: Introduction, the main body and the conclusion. Again there is no rule regarding the respective length of the three but commonly while one paragraph each is devoted to the introduction and the conclusion, the main body takes up the rest. No doubt this is a common knowledge as everyone writing an essay knows at least this much. In practice however, this is often forgotten.

I hope this article will help you to prepare for your forthcoming examinations as well as writing a good essay in all respect.


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sd is a writer at Expertscolumn.com.

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