Why did I receive low marks on a long form or prose style question?
There are a number of common reasons why candidates do not attract high marks on prose questions; these have been summarised below. If you were unsuccessful on a long form, scenario or prose examination, the reason will very likely be discussed here.
- Poor, unclear language or answer structure. Some marks are specifically allocated for clear language. Although allowances are made for the absence of spellchecking software to a degree, it is important that the answers are structured clearly and presented in a professional manner. Incorrect usage of technical terms, poor spelling or unclear phraseology will not attract full marks, and successful candidates ensure that their answers are all of a quality suitable for delivery to a client.
- Vague, non-committal and overly verbose language. It is very common for candidates to produce long paragraph answers which, although perhaps accurate, do not demonstrate any actual knowledge. A good example is answering a question related to risk with a sentence to the effect of “all applicable risks and local laws should be managed in line with the client expectations”; this is a true statement but does not demonstrate specific or detailed knowledge and consequently cannot attract high marks. Another example is an assertion that “the environment should be secure” without further explanation; this is probably true but does not demonstrate anything beyond basic intuitive reasoning. Successful candidates will ensure that their answers do not contain unnecessary phrases and are specific and detailed enough to demonstrate their knowledge in this area.
- Answers being irrelevant to the question. Some candidates answer a different question to the one being asked; in some cases, those differences are subtle. It is important that the questions are read carefully to avoid misunderstandings. Another reason is due to a common but flawed technique: some candidates copy and paste an answer between questions because of the perceived similarity between questions. This will often result in low marks because the questions will be subtly different in either content or perspective. If two questions appear to be identical, the successful candidate will read both questions carefully and ensure that their answers are focused on the specific question.
- Repetition of answers. In a surprisingly high number of cases, the same point is made multiple times using slightly different terminology but with the same meaning. This will not attract additional marks.
- Attempting to anticipate the mark scheme. The CREST examinations are not looking for perfection; they are looking to measure and assess competence at a given discipline and the mark schemes are devised and moderated by assessors who also deliver at that discipline. Successful candidates answer the questions based on real world knowledge, not by attempting to perfectly align with a perception of the mark scheme. An unrealistic answer will attract far fewer marks than a realistic but imperfect one.
- Consider the audience and context of the question. Some questions will provide an indication of the context of the question: for example, the question may require candidates to author a management summary for the board or may involve a scenario in which specific facts are given. Generic answers (which are not tailored to the specific circumstances in the scenario) or a management summary which contains overly technical information will not attract high marks, regardless of how technically accurate the information is. This is because the question is looking to examine the ability to translate information for different audiences or apply general principles to a specific situation. Successful candidates will ensure that their answers are tailored to the given environment, scenario or question.
- Colloquialisms. Answers should be written using professional English in a style commensurate with that of a formal report. Colloquial statement, emoticons, “text speak” or other casual, informal language that would not be appropriate in a formal report will not attract significant marks. All prose questions attract marks specifically for the overall quality of the deliverable and these marks can only be obtained by providing a professionally worded, formal answer. It is impossible to obtain full marks based on technical accuracy alone.