You’d be surprised how easy it is to get these exercises wrong, especially when you feel like you’ve worked so hard to get it right. Here are a few to watch out for:
- Not answering the question.
Sounds daft, doesn’t it, but you’d be surprised. When you are in a rush to get on its easy to skim read the question then dive in, answering what you think it was asking. This isn’t always what it was actually asking.
- Not planning your response.
With the time pressure looming it’s tempting to want to just get on with it. But if you don’t take 5 to plan your answers out in advance there is a strong chance you will find yourself going off on a tangent half way though. As your response meanders through various topics you’ll find yourself not being sure any more what point you are trying to make. Even if you do manage to pull it back in the last paragraph or two, your assessors will see right through you.
- Not linking back to the question
In most questions there will be several parts i.e. ‘evaluate the data, identify your priorities and make recommendations’. Your answer should be divided into ‘evaluating the data’, ‘identifying priorities’ and finally ‘recommendations’. You’d be surprised how many people miss out one of those instructions, or don’t link their response to them. This makes it more difficult for the assessor to work out what you are trying to say and how it connects to what you have been asked
- Scattergun approach
So many ideas so little time! It’s usually better to focus on one or two solutions in depth than throw out ten ideas, none of which are rationalised or properly explained. By all means reference wider plans if you have time, but make sure you have gone into depth in at least a couple of key areas
- Narrow view
You need to consider the wider context to the question. You will probably be given lots of information to digest and some of it will be relevant to the questions you need to answer. There’s no point outlining a big budget plan when the wider context is of budgetary cuts; a proposal might be clever, but has it taken into account important political (internal or external) factors?