It’s exam season across Nigeria as students are tested on what they have learnt this first term. Sure, you have studied hard, you have revised well, and you are applying those tips that will bring everything to memory. But it doesn’t stop there, you also need to know how to answer questions – the essay part – so you can score maximum marks. Consider the following:

1. Read the Questions Properly

The first thing to do when you get the question paper is to READ THE INSTRUCTIONS. Do you have five questions with the option of answering four? Take the time to read through so you can determine the ones you can answer best. Is there a COMPULSORY question? Do some questions have higher marks attached to them?

Ensure to consider all these. Don’t see it as a waste of time, because examiners set questions that require you to think and reflect under the allotted time for the paper.

2. Don’t Just Cram and Pour

Teachers differ in what they want. Some want you to simply regurgitate your class notes, while others want you to do more than that. Identify each teacher and what they want – you will get an idea from comparing test scripts. But most teachers prefer students who are original in interpretation, engage the mind of the marker, and have shown critical thought in answering the question.

As an example, let’s consider a question like: What is Biology? Because I know that Bio is Latin for life, and Logy is Latin for study, I would define Biology by bringing together everything I know about it. I would say:

Biology is the study of life and living organisms; whether unicellular or multi-cellular, whether in possession of a nucleus – that is, eukaryotes like amoebae – or without a nucleus – that is, prokaryotes like the E Coli bacteria . These organisms may range from the simple cells of micro-organisms like bacteria, to complex multi-cellular organisms like humans.

I am sure this definition varies somewhat from your note. But imagine if you added this to what you already know, wouldn’t you get more marks than someone who just regurgitated her class notes? And I wrote this from my knowledge of bio, logy, prokaryotes and eukaryotes!

3. Be Specific

This is essentially important when answering essay questions. Don’t generalise, rather show your knowledge and deep understanding of the topic by being specific. Are you solving a Math question involving π? Indicate the value you have used if it isn’t given. Is it g=9.8m/s² or g = 10m/s²? Always state what your assumptions are if they are not clearly given. Don’t assume the teacher should know!

4. Spell Correctly and Don’t Forget Your Units

Are you aware that accurate spelling earns you marks? And not only in English Language! Always ensure that you can tell the difference between words that are verbs, and those that are nouns; the spellings that are American and those that are British; and other rules of grammar and punctuation. Also ensure that you spell the names of places and people correctly, Micheal is definitely not the same as Michael!

As a student of science, never forget your units! I = 10 is not the same as I = 10A!! Neither is Principal = 10,000 the same as Principal = 10,000. And the correct representation of formulae too, they are all very important.

Wishing you the very best in your examinations.