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‘You have 45 minutes, starting from now’: Helping Students Develop their Exam Essay Skills

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posted on 2011-02-25, 10:57 authored by Christopher J. R. Willmott
In recent years academics have commonly bemoaned the lack of essay-writing ability exhibited by their students. Whether or not the halcyon era in which undergraduates routinely knew how to construct a persuasive essay ever truly existed, it is certainly the case that contemporary students can benefit from advice on preparation of a long-format written answer. In many ways, the need for training is most apparent in the context of exam essays, and yet it is this aspect of their work on which students are least likely to receive guidance and/or feedback. By their very nature, examinations tend to take place at or near the end of a module. For very practical reasons, therefore, it is not usually possible to take students analytically through their exam essays. Coupled with this, there may be a certain reticence to share annotated scripts with their authors for fear of hours lost whilst they haggle for additional credit. Over the past six years, we have been running an exercise on writing exam essays as part of our first year Key Skills programme for students of Medical Biochemistry and, latterly, Medical Genetics and Medical Physiology. This short article offers practical advice on the selection of material and the construction of the activities.



Bioscience Education, 2007, 9-c2

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Centre for Bioscience, the Higher Education Academy



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