I was at a meeting recently with a gentleman who liked the sound of his own voice. I had no problem with him regaling me with his issues, but it was one of those situations where he used 3000 words when 30 would have done the trick. He spent more than 45 minutes explaining something that would have taken me less than ten.
Towards the end of the meeting, I was finding it hard to hide my impatience and frustration. In my head, all I could think was ‘land the plane! Land the plane!” Basically, I just wanted him to get to the point, which eventually to my great relief – he did.
I’ve been an assessor/examiner for CIPS since 2009 and I experience the same frustration with some students’ exam scripts. There are plenty of occasions where I can tell the student understands the concept, but they have gone off on a tangent with an example about their organisation and gone into so much detail that the example has run on for more than a page.
An example is meant to add to your answer, to showcase your argument. It’s not meant to be the answer. Students will jump into a question without planning and want to show how they understand it. The problem though is that they make a statement, such as outsourcing leads to cost savings, then rush into an example of what happened at their work with outsourcing. Remember you need to explain the statement you are making before you rush to the example.
The example should ideally be brief and to the point, a few sentences long, before you move on to the next point that you are making. Examples should not take up two or three paragraphs or run over a page. If you are doing this then usually you will not be addressing the full question, and you may run out of time, as every point you make should try to be linked back to an example.
Remember to land the plane – get to the point! Not too concise so that you are not answering the question, but not just a giant waffle of an example. This is a totally inexact science, but if the question is 25 marks, and you are making five points (attracting five marks each) then you need at least 5 sentences in each point you are making. This covers one paragraph with a statement, explanation, and example.
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