A good response to a short-answer question is constructed from two things:
Developing a structured approach to answering SAQs is essential to succeeding in this section of the exam. A structured approach:
- Is easily digested by the examiner
- Reduces the amount of filler you need to write, meaning you can write more facts
- Typically lends itself to bullet points rather than paragraphs
- Allows you to recall more information than you would otherwise
Especially if you learnt it in the same format. This is particularly important for pharmacology.
Additionally, a good response will:
- Answer the question
This is stated repeatedly in examiner reports. If the question asks for a discussion of the respiratory changes of pregnancy, no marks will be awarded for cardiovascular changes.
- Be legible
- Not be perfect
This is often-overlooked.
- Examiner reports (and some model answers), assume a perfect response
- This not feasible given the time allowed
- It is also not actually expected - remember that the pass mark is 50%
The bottom line:
- A good response will cover the major points in reasonable detail
- Will generally focus on principles rather than specifics
Marks become progressively harder to acquire:
- The first one or two marks on a question should be easy
- Going from an 8/10 to a 10/10 will require time which you likely cannot spare
Answering the Question
- You have exactly 10 minutes per SAQ
- You should practice to 8-9 minutes per SAQ
In many cases, the last question (or questions) goes unanswered. This demonstrates poor time management, as easy marks were thrown away by candidates reaching for harder marks on earlier questions.
- During reading time, you should evaluate each question to:
- Decide what part of the curriculum it is assessing
- Work out the context, if any
- Decide what structure would be most appropriate