Essay Writing and Answering Exam Questions

Explanatory Notes for Isaac Field (by C. Field 19/4/2013)

While writing essays and answering exam questions appears to a student to be merely a process of evaluation imposed by the school system it is much more than that. Essay writing and written answers to questions rely upon skills that are highly valuable in life and career.

These explanatory notes will explain some of the key issues related to essay writing and written answers to questions, hopefully prompting intelligent development and application of the appropriate skills, not just in the school context but into adult life and career.

1.         Core Skills.

The core skills relied upon in writing essays and exam answers, and throughout the rest of your life, are:
a) Observation, comprehension, understanding and memory of the source content under investigation (book, movie, article) and the exam question or essay topic, including ability to make relevant quotations.
b) Analysis, reflection, interpretation, evaluation and re-expression of the ideas conveyed or prompted by the source content under investigation and also in the exam question or essay topic.
c) Comparison of ideas or expressions, which shows that you have observed and comprehended and also interpreted and analysed what you have observed, seeing the distinctions between the elements being compared.
d) Communication, organisation of thought, clear expression and convincing argument.
e) Extent of ideas, including originality and insight, arguments for and against a point, ability to accommodate various and divergent perceptions and keep them in balance and how widely read and rich the student’s information is.
f) Underlying language tools, such as spelling, grammar, vocabulary, technical terminology, clarity (without ambiguity or vagueness) and presentation skills.

2.         Presentation.

While this may seem a lesser consideration it is true that clarity of presentation requires clarity of thought and so it is always a good starting point.

Note that this article starts with a Heading, followed by a sub-heading, and includes identification of the author and date. The opening sentences explain the subject matter of the article and its purpose. A reader will quickly know whether they wish to read this article or if it is the one they were seeking.

Poorly identified documents can be overlooked or lost or fail to get the attention they deserve.

This is not an exam skill, but a requisite life skill, to clearly and accurately identify documents and the content therein. Get into the habit of doing this automatically whether required or not. If it is inappropriate make the exception for that answer.

At the top of your essay or assignment put the relevant information of Subject, Class, Topic, your name, date and so on.

Eg: SOCIAL SCIENCE, Yr 10, Mid Term Exam, Cultural Diversity, May 5, 2014, Billy Smith Class 10J.
Question 1: Primary Culture in Australia.
While cultural diversity exists within communities and even within each cultural group there is usually a primary culture overriding all other cultural elements. In Australia that primary culture can be seen …….

3.         Clarity.

The first sentence or two in an essay or exam answer should (unless a very short answer is required) restate the topic or question in some way, so the reader or examiner can be confident you are answering the right question.

This is also a checkpoint for yourself, to ensure you are doing the right thing. There is no prize for writing an exam question where you wrongly understood the question.

4.         Interpret the Question or Topic.

If you get the question wrong or do not fully answer it you are throwing points away and wasting your time.

Observe what the question or topic asks, interpret it, keep all the parts in mind and in their place, organise your thoughts and then express them effectively.

Eg: Assignment Question – Using Examples from the Source Material (Text / Article / Chapter) Describe two different processes that produce the result.
Note that this question asks for EXAMPLES and DESCRIPTION of TWO things that are DIFFERENT. You must provide all those elements or you cannot expect your optimum score.

If you are struggling to answer a question, at least show the examiner that you UNDERSTAND the question. Refer to the elements mentioned in the question (examples, description, 2, different).

5.         Do what is Required. Follow Instructions.

Most essay and exam questions will ask for a specific performance from the student.

One level of question simply asks you to Describe or Give Examples. This checks that you know the material. Quotations, summary statements and listing the core elements of the material will be helpful here, to show that you do know the material.

Another level of question asks you to Discuss, Address, Analyse, Compare or Explain something. This type of question checks your ability to analyse, comprehend, see the implications, make assessments, filter the material through some kind of lens or otherwise interpret the material.
In most classes teachers tend to feed students sufficient examples of what is required such that an astute student can usually pass an exam by re-presenting those thoughts already presented in class.

Higher level students will have taken the teacher’s observations and promptings as a springboard for their own insights and analysis, and their essay or answer to a question will include original thought, and/or more widely read understanding, likely gaining them higher marks.

Be sure you keep an eye on the question and do what it asks. If you must give 2 examples, then do so. If you must present your own thoughts or impressions then do so.

Eg: Exam Question: 10 Second Dash.
“You have 10 seconds only to answer this question.
Read the whole question before answering.
State Your First Name: ________________.
Year you started at this school: __________________.
Current Class: ______________________.
Favourite Sport: _________________.
Mother’s maiden name: ________________.
Father’s Occupation: _______________________.
Names of Siblings: ________________________________________________.
Hair Colour: _______________________.
Do not write anything on this page.”

Modern Day Slavery

How is it we are trapped in a web of fines, threats, debts, notices, by-laws and the like?

How is it the police are our enemy when they are supposed to bless us by protecting us?

What has been done to justice when the Justice Department spends so much of its time harassing us, entrapping us, making strange and unfounded judgments against us and upholding all manner of silly claims against us?

Do you really want to know?

Common Law Obligations

Under Common Law you can be held guilty for various things. But apart from a few responsibilities toward others you are blessed with abundant rights that can’t be taken from you (inalienable) because they were given to you by God when you were created.

Despite your rights and freedoms you are obligated not to harm others, or to harm their property, and also to keep your word.

Your Common Law obligations are toward others: not to harm them; not to harm their property; and not to break your word to them.

Keeping Your Word

The reason keeping your word is a Common Law obligation is because you can hurt others by breaking your word.

If you promise to do something and others rely on you they are vulnerable to harm if you don’t keep your word. If you don’t buy what you promised to buy the seller may miss a genuine sale to another customer. If you don’t marry the girl you promised to marry you may cause her a life of heartbreak. If you don’t deliver the medicine you promised the patient may die.

So your word is a potential source of “harm” to others, just as your fist, or your unchained bull may be. If you cause injury then you have broken a Common Law obligation.

Making a Slave of You

Centuries ago certain men who were looking only for their own interests realised they could use your obligation to keep your word to enslave you and make you pass your wealth to them.

They could do it by trapping you into a contract that was in their favour. If they could induce you into a commercial contract where you gave your word, and then get you in default, having broken your promise, then they could drag you before the courts and force you to pay what they claimed.

This is a perversion of the Common Law obligation to keep your word. It is also evil and wrong, despite the fact that a good case may be presented in court.


What makes the evil commercial contract so wrong is that its intention was never to create a positive, mutually acceptable contract for mutual benefit, but to entrap, enslave and destroy one party for the benefit of another.

Thus commercial law emerged as a powerful element of law over recent centuries. Terms like ‘law merchant’ reflect that body of law based around commercial contracts.

Before God, who is Chief Justice over all justice, the heart is under observation. God looks on the heart. God deems a contract to be evil if the heart of the one creating it is to exploit or harm another. The prophets of old and the Son of God Himself warned us that God looks on the heart.

Presumption of Contract

The evil of commercial law enslaving others has developed further in today’s western world to the Presumption of Contract. Rather than trap people in a fraudulent contract we are today trapped by contracts we didn’t even know we entered.

In order to exploit you other parties, including our governments and government agencies, induce us into presumed contracts and then respond as if we knowingly entered into bondage to them. When those parties deem us to be in default they then drag us before the courts and we are somehow found guilty of things we did not know we were bound to.

What is more, we are not given much chance if any to defend ourselves because we are deemed to be guilty from the moment someone points their finger at us and declares us guilty, such as a traffic cop, parking attendant, local council employee. or similar.

No Escape

We are no longer presumed innocent until proven guilty, but we are guilty the moment someone accuses us. That’s how it is with police traffic offences, parking tickets and so on.

We may well get an unsolicited letter in the mail declaring that we have been found guilty of this or that and the fine is such and such. When we write back or phone to find out what it is about we discover that the only options we are given relate to how we will pay, not how the other party will prove their claim. The claim is taken to be true, without proper judicial process and thus trampling on our common law rights and natural justice.

We are treated like slaves who have to obey our masters, rather than people with God-given freedom who are immune from false and evil claims, protected by justice and the guarantee of our rights (such as our monarch is bound to give through Magna Carta and other ancient promises).

Contract Wins

One reason things go like that is because it has been declared that Contracts are higher in standing than our common law rights.

It is possible for you to contract to give up your common law rights. So Contract stands higher than those rights. Or, to put it more correctly, your will stands higher than your rights. You have the right to choose by your own will to give up your rights.

You can choose to be a slave, or to pay for someone else’s crime (as in Tale of Two Cities, or the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ). Your freedom is so powerful it includes the right to give up freedom itself.

And by extension of that, if you enter a contract by your own free will, that contract stands higher than any rights you may have given up.

Pretended Contracts

If someone can trick you into a contract, or bluff you that you are bound by a contract you didn’t knowingly enter and didn’t know the full terms and conditions of, then you can be made an absolute slave, based on the idea that contract is supreme.

So governments and corporations, police forces, local councils, and all manner of other regulators are busy as all get-out tangling you into their contracts. When you respond to their absurd letter of demand or their unexpected and unjust charges and fines, they will tell you that you are bound by this or that rule to do what they demand. No matter how much you huff and puff you seem to get nowhere. If you stall and delay you find that unexpected additional penalties have been imposed. When you object you are told that your complaint has been reviewed and refused.

And you just don’t seem to be able to break this nexus. You find yourself enslaved by all manner of constrictions which your parents and grandparents never thought of, and you are at the mercy of pen-pushers and self-interested parties who seem to have the right to dictate your fate.

It’s Presumption

The whole house of cards is built on Presumption. They presume to have power over you. They presume that you are in contract with them. They presume that you are bound by their decision, no matter how one-sider or evil, or how filled with self-interest it may be.

They presume you have voluntarily given up your rights and freedoms to them, and they intimidate you if you don’t comply with their presumption.

You are Presumed Dead. And they treat you like a corpse.

Most people simply give up and play dead, because they fear the consequences of challenging what seems to be evil.

Dead in the Head

Your problem is that they are not so far wrong. If you are dead in the head, if you are willing to lie down and let them trample on you, then they have every right to treat you like a carcase at their disposal.

If you let them make contract with you, presume that you are their slave, and walk all over you, then that’s probably OK. I mean, if you choose to accept that contract then you can accept it. You can’t exactly argue against it if you accept the terms and conditions and allow them to bind you into an evil contract.

It’s your life, and it’s your will. If you WILL for it to be so, by lying down and letting them enslave you, then I guess that’s the CONTRACT you have entered into. It’s the terms you have accepted.

As someone once put it, what you suffer is what you want. If you didn’t want it you would not suffer it. So if you accept others treating your like a slave, then you must actually want to be a slave deep on the inside. It would be wrong for me to deny you what you want.

Or Stand Up

The alternative is to wake up to what is going on and to stand up and say, “No”.

You can challenge the presumed contract and demand that they prove it. You can reserve your rights rather than letting them trample all over you.

You can declare that there is no contract and that you don’t consent, and they must prove that you knowingly entered into contract with them and accepted the terms. You can demand that they give you full disclosure of the contract they are offering and allow you to modify the terms to suit you, rather than the terms that suit them.

But don’t expect that they will give up their slave easily. There may well be a fight about their right to hold you to their will.

And then you must decide whether you really believe you are free, or if you are just looking for some easy way out of some bills and obligations.

That’s the deal. The rest is up to you.

Any Good Men?

The way evil prevails is if good men do nothing.

Are there any good men out there?