cut a long story short

I’ve been marking essays a lot of the day & there are still a fair few waiting for me to give them some attention, so this is going to be brief. But reading through them all has spurred me to make a couple of comments relevant to your Schol preparation.

One is something I’ve said before – read the question! It is so important to be clear on what the examiner is asking, and to focus on answering that. I’ve just had to give a couple of papers quite low marks. They were well-written; the students had made good use of diagrams to show what they were talking about; references were cited correctly; & so on. So what was wrong? They hadn’t answered the question that I’d set.  Their essays made perfect sense & they obviously knew what they were talking about, but they hadn’t addressed the question that I’d set.

And in some other cases, I’ve put lines through whole paragraphs & written ‘irrelevant’ next to them. Well, scribbled it, actually. (And the more frustrated I get, the scribblier my writing becomes. Even with a fountain pen. Which I use because it forces me to write legibly – most of the time…) In other words, these students haven’t thought critically about the information available to them, in terms of what is relevant to their answer & what isn’t. Comments on this sort of ‘brain dumping’ are a constant refrain in the Schol bio examiner’s report. My students don’t lose marks for this, not directly – but their essays have a word limit, & if this is partly taken up with irrelevant content, that leaves less space & words to cover the essentials. And of course, in the Schol exams (& in uni exams) you are up against a time limit, so putting in unnecessary bits & pieces is also chewing through the time available to you to complete the paper. And since the Schol examiner is looking for evidence of criitcal thinking, someone piling on the waffle is not doing themselves any favours.

Cutting a too-long story short is a learned skill, but it’s one that will stand you in good stead. That, & paying careful attention to which story you are being asked to tell 🙂

One thought on “cut a long story short”

  • Before all my exams my mother would say to me ‘make sure you read the question!’. It’s good advice.
    But isn’t it so tempting to think, ‘I spent so much time studying all this stuff, I don’t care what the question is, I’m going to put in absolutley everything I can remember’. 🙂

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