ICT Views

How to answer an essay style question

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You’ve taken the plunge, and are now an International Compliance Training student. Congratulations and welcome aboard! You’re undoubtedly researching revision strategies, and looking at how you can maximise success during your time with us.


If you’re new to the world of professional education, or it’s been a while since you last studied, the prospect of studying again can be daunting. That’s where we step in to guide, support and help you.


Your success, after all, is our success and we want your time with us to be positive.


As part of your course, you may have an essay-style question to complete. Writing an essay need not fuel horror in your mind. On the contrary, essay writing can be a great way to demonstrate your years of experience and knowledge.


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The approach


Essay-style questions come in many formats. For example, you may be provided with a quote or statement and then be asked to write with reference to that. A question may ask about a specific topic and you then have to address this. Alternatively, you might be provided with a short scenario or quote and then asked to respond to a series of issues raised in this context.


Remember, part of what you are being assessed upon is your ability to interpret and analyse, so it is essential to explore the question thoroughly.


You must ensure that you have identified all the relevant structure and content requirements. With that in mind, it is important to remember that in essay-style questions, just as with case study questions, you may find that the question itself is split into two or more sub-questions, either obviously (the question is presented in two or more parts) or less obviously (the question is not broken down into parts but covers two or more areas). You therefore need to scrutinise the question carefully to ensure that you pick out the key points.


Once you have broken down the key points within the question, use these as a base to begin developing your answer.

In answering an essay-style question, there are some aspects to consider.


  • Take care to bear in mind the presentational format stipulated in the question and present your answer accordingly. For example, you might be asked to produce a report, a guidance note, a set of training notes – if you are directed in this way, you should make sure that your answer fits that description. If you are unsure how to present your response in a particular format there are additional ‘How To…’ guides available that will help you with this (see list at the end of this guide).


  • Consider your audience. It may be stated within the question itself that you are writing for a particular audience (e.g. the board, new staff) and again if you are directed in this way, write with that intended audience in mind. This means you will need to think about issues such as language and style as well as content so that it is appropriate for that particular audience. You should, nonetheless, always take care to use a professional tone throughout, reflecting the professional nature of the programme you are studying.


  • Include some form of introduction to your answer, setting out to the reader (i.e. the examiner) what will be covered and why. This is where you could include a comment ‘How to…’ answer an essay-style question on any assumptions you are making in your approach (such as any particular topics or jurisdictional/sectoral/organisational choices).


  • Ensure that the main body of the paper explores the relevant topics as required by the question and that these flow in a logical manner, supported by examples/illustrations/diagrams/etc. Use subheadings to guide the reader and ensure that the layout is clear.


  • Finish with some form of conclusion. If the question asks you to arrive at a particular decision, do so. If it asks you to state your position, do so. If it asks you to make recommendations, do so. Do as the question directs.



Other consideration points

Where you are required to include illustrations and diagrams, or the suggestion is made that you might wish to do so, be sure that you do. These can break up blocks of text and are often advantageous methods of presenting complex/lengthy information in straightforward manner. Brevity and simplicity in putting forth views and ideas are always beneficial.


Where you are required to support your comments with examples or your own experiences, you should do so. These demonstrate that you are aware of how the issues raised in the question are reflected in the real world, and are also a useful means of emphasising points you have made in your argument. Most importantly, where the question directs you to include these, not to do so means you have not met the requirements of the question and you will lose marks.


Overall, with an essay-style question, your primary consideration should be to keep on track with your essay plan. Do not be tempted to head off in a different direction which, although interesting, is not what the question is looking for. It is pointless to present the examiner with whole paragraphs or pages of closely written text that bear little relevance to the question topic.


In summary


The three key points to remember are:


  1. you must identify key points in all parts of the question and use these as a basis for your answer

  2. you must keep on track – ensure that your response addresses the specifics of the question rather than being generalised

  3. you are being assessed on both content and structure, so keep that in mind.




How are you finding your studies? Do you have any tried and tested tips that you would like to share with your fellow students? Share them with us using the hashtag #ICTViews. Join the conversation for more tips and hints.




ICA qualifications are a globally recognised benchmark of competence and excellence in the fields of anti money laundering (AML), compliance and financial crime prevention. There are courses to suit all levels of knowledge and experience.


A range of ICA qualifications are approved for delivery within the Compliance/Risk Specialist and Senior Compliance/Risk Specialist Apprenticeship Standards for Financial Services in England. To find out more get in touch at inhouse@int-comp.com


Find out more about ICA qualifications here.


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ZAP said...

May 10, 2018 10:36



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