As you progress through your 2-year nightmare, that is JC Economics, you will start having the power to choose which essay questions to do. For some of you, that begins in the JC1 Promo Exams that would determine whether you can promote to JC2, and whether you are forced to drop to H1. For others, it begins from the March Common Test for JC2 or even the June Common Test, depending on the assessment model that your school chooses to adopt. Regardless, having a sound strategy to choose questions is crucial to doing well. Picking the right questions is more than half the battle won, since going off point is very often fatal. Here are some essential tips to ensure that you are always picking the optimal questions to improve your chances of getting that elusive A.
1. 25 mark questions aren't necessarily more difficult
We can't know this for sure, but historical trends kinda suggest that examiners know that students are intimidated by 25 mark questions. Consequently, it is quite common to see 25 mark questions that are easier than their 10m/25m counterparts. While students often find that it is hard to plan out a 25 mark essay and know what to write, this can be easily overcome by breaking the essay down into an imaginary "part (a)" and "part (b)". 25m questions typically have a more factual component and a more argumentative component; the former requires more regurgitation, while the latter requires a two-sided answer. Breaking a long, 25 mark answer into these pieces makes it more manageable, and easier to decipher what content has to be included into the essay. With this in mind, a student can essentially level the playing field between the 10m/15m questions and the 25m questions, and make an informed choice by assessing the question difficulty, rather than making arbitrary decisions based on the marks. Which brings us to the next tip!
2. Pick questions based on difficulty, not based on topic
This is a high level skill. Make no mistake about that. But it is one that with enough practice and exposure (we really cannot emphasize this enough), will come naturally to many students. We define an easy question as one that is familiar, with a simple structure, meaning it is immediately obvious what points you have to include for the question (market failure policy questions come to mind). Questions that are difficult tend to be convoluted, extremely long, have tricky operative words and preambles that are hard to comprehend. Failure to pick up on any of these elements and attempting the question simplistically would condemn you to failure, no matter how "correct" your theoretical explanations are. What this means is that if you only selectively prepare for certain topics, you are forced to attempt difficult questions from your "pet topics" due to your inability to do easier questions from other topics. A more effective exam strategy would thus be to familiarize yourself with easy question styles, rather than confining yourself to certain topics. Staring down an impossible question (and there are always one or two of these "trap" questions that are almost un-doable) from your pet topic is always going to end in tears.
3. Don't pick a question just because the part (a) looks easy; a challenging part (b) will almost guarantee failure
A part (a) that is difficult with a part (b) that is easy, is harder to do than a part (a) that is easy and a part (b) that is difficult. That was a mouthful. To put it simply, don't pick a question just because the part (a) looks easy. If you only realize that the part (b) is too challenging after you are done with your part (a), there is no getting out of a very sticky situation. The reasoning here is simple: part (a) questions tend to have a narrower scope than part (b) questions. What this means is that if you regurgitate relevant knowledge for a part (a), even if you are not exactly on point, the failure rate would be quite low. Comparatively for a part (b) question, having the right scope, the right points and the right structure is really important. A "spray and pray" approach (for the the FPS aficionados among you) where you just dump whatever you can think of into a part (b) is riskier than a game of roulette. So if you pick an (a) that is slightly harder but with an easier (b), you could end up with a 5 + 9 or 5 + 10, which puts you in the C/B territory. On the other hand if you went with an easy (a) and a hard (b), even if you get a 7 on the (a) but a 4 or 5 on the (b), you are still going to be in bad shape (D/E range, or worse).
Scoring well in essays require practice and familiarity. There is a chasm between what you actually learn in theory, and how questions are actually asked. If you don't put in sufficient effort in working through questions, and instead choose to take shelter in the warm embrace of reading lecture notes, it will be near impossible to do well in essays. These tips would go a long way in getting you exam-ready, providing a roadmap for selecting questions quickly and effectively with the unforgiving seconds bearing down on you. These techniques will not ensure that you get an A without you putting in the requisite effort, but it will certainly magnify your efforts and increase the probability of improving on your essays.