What are essay questions?
They are questions that require an answer in sentences and paragraphs. As tutors, many of us are familiar with such questions as we prepare our students for their O levels.
Particularly in subjects like humanities, where there are structured-essay questions and case studies, students have to give evidence, elaborate and present their arguments in an essay format.
But students often find it tricky to answer such questions because it is easy for them to go off-topic and requires heavy memorisation. Here are some ways you can help your student answer essay questions in their O level exams.
Teach Them to Plan Their Essay
One of the most common mistakes students make is not planning their essays. Many tend to just jump straight into writing their essays, and halfway through it, they realise that their points are not well supported.
Instead, teach them to jot down all their ideas on the question paper first and plan their essay before writing.
You can do this by having essay question exercises. Instead of making them write down the entire essay, just get them to jot down notes, their key points and outline their essay.
Use Structures and Formats
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When it comes to answering essay questions, structure is essential. Not only does it make your student’s answer seem organised, but it also helps them plan their points and outline the essay.
So here are some formats to help your student structure their answer well:
1. MEAL (Main idea, Evidence, Analysis, Link)
2. MEAEAL (Main point, evidence, analyse evidence, evidence, analyse evidence, link)
3. PEEL (point, evidence, elaboration, link).
You can print a template for them in the first few lessons, but it is not needed after a while since they’ll get used to it.
Bulk Up on Evidence
Evidence is essential in answering essay questions. They support your student’s points using facts, statistics, research findings, and quotes from credible sources. Without it, your student’s answer may seem unreliable and lack depth.
So what can you do to improve this? When teaching subjects like history, literature and social studies, highlight important dates and events that your student can use as evidence in their exam and get them to study them.
Practice Makes Perfect
One of the best ways to help your student answer essay questions is to get them to practise doing them. When you get your student to practise answering them, it helps them get used to a routine: read, plan, write, check.
By doing this, your student cultivates a good habit of following this routine which will effectively help them save time during their exam. It also helps them to get used to structuring their answers in a logical way.
Sure, your student might dread doing them but they’ll come to thank you later when they get an ‘A’ for their exam.
Expose Them to Real-World Happenings
In Social Studies or Geography, real-world knowledge is often accepted as answers to structured essay questions. So you can expose your students to real-world happenings or events that they could include in their answers.
One way you can do this is to keep them updated on the news. For example, if the question in the Geography paper is related to green energy, then the latest news on wind turbine energy can be included in their answer.
When answering essay questions, you might find that your student may have difficulties. This is because they need to present their ideas concisely and coherently. This is why you need to help your student overcome this difficulty in answering essay questions.
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