Posted in Intern advice

Essay Tekkers!

Do you have to write essays in your forthcoming exams? The Exams Technique: Essays workshop, run here at 301, help to alleviate some of the concerns and worries that you might have. I sat in on this workshop and will provide you with some of the top tips that were mentioned!

At the start of the session, attendees were given an article titled ’10 things academics say students get wrong in exams’. It was interesting to see how this resonated with the students. Surprisingly, the article is probably something that we can all relate to and, sure enough, students identified mostly with using rehearsed essays answers and time management during the actual exam. Having a lack of analysis in your answer was also a problem – 301 has that covered too!

Each semester we run Critical Thinking workshops so make sure you keep an eye on the website and book up nice and early for one! It’s good to know, and reassuring, that these are problems that students all over the country are facing – not just you! Hannah and Mike, the workshop tutors, would cover these issues along with the following: Discussion of common issues, Understanding exam questions, Strategies, What examiners are looking for and finally (and perhaps the most important!), top tips!

How much time should you allocate to answering a question in a 1 hour exam? Well, this will obviously depend on what faculty you are in, but for Arts and Humanities it was felt that 5-10mins should be allocated to reading the question, planning and reviewing your answer respectively, with the remainder of the time being used to write your answer. For Social Science students, it was a similar breakdown.

Then it was time for busting some jargon! A simple group task of matching definitions to key words was not as simple as it looked – and even I had to think twice about some of the answers!! Actually engaging with the words and what they mean was beneficial and in helping us think about exactly what we are being asked to do. Do you know the difference between ‘analyse’ and ‘argue’? Attendees are given a handout with all of this information on and for everyone else, there is an overview pamphlet available the foyer of 301.

Planning your answer was also covered and everyone felt it was helpful to be reminded about reading the instructions and question at least twice. A key tip from Hannah was: ask yourself, “what is the topic and what is my task?” Remember – as well as creating a plan, you can also make lists and then tick each item off as you cover it in your answer.

Essay structures and paragraph structures were also covered – helpful for those who do not have English as their first language, but also a refresher for everyone else! Can we all honestly say that when re-reading our essays, none of our paragraphs could have been made clearer or more relevant to the question?

And finally, top tips! These were all really useful (some may seem obvious, but in the midst of exam stress, we all forget them!) and so I am going to include the main ones here:

-  Don’t necessarily go for ‘comfort zone’ topics

 – Re-read each question carefully

 – Have a snappy introduction and conclusion – make your exam answer stand out!

 -Move on if you get stuck – leave room to return

Before the exam:

- Think positively

- Sleep and eat properly

- Exercise

- Take breaks and relax

- Plan out how to use your time during the exam

Remember: 1:1 study skill tutorials are still available if you need any further advice before/during the exam period and pamphlets are available to take away from the foyer of 301.

Good luck with those exams 🙂 !!! 



We are 301 Student Skills and Development Centre and we give academic skills advice to our students at the University of Sheffield. We offer workshops and 1:1 appointments.

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