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Exam essays v. Supervision essays

I'm a bit confused, is a 2.1 exam essay equal to a 2.1 supervsion essay? Eg. attached essay got me a high 2.1 in an Economic History supervision but I doubt significantly I could reproduce something like that in 45 minutes uder exam conditions.

Please help. :frown: :frown: :frown:

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No, of course not. That's why they give you a week to do supervision essays, rather than an hour.

^ As MB says, supervision and exam essays are completely different beasts altogether. Whilst I am an historian and not an economist, they will be more leniant as to exact quotes- for example, its far more acceptable to apraphrase an opinion in the exams, they don't need exact quotes. Also, I suppose an exam essay would be a lot more strongly argued and brief than a supo one; in teh latter, you've got the time to fully evaluate a topic, evaluating all teh different opinions etc., whereas with teh exam answer its far more a case of argue your point against a few cogent opponents.

But hey, I'm not the best qualified for this, being a mere first year...
Reply 3
Exam answers whould be 3-4 sides of A4. Supervision essays should be no less than 1500 words. Look at the structure of the questions. Supervision qqs are far more open. To what extent... How far would you agree...yada yada Discuss... etc etc.

Exam questions are far more stark. Was the Japanese Supreme Court responsible for the insignificance of civil rights protection? Answer with reference to either the 1970s or 1990s. A decent answer can certainly be covered in less than five sides. Also, as long as you know a few figures or an interesting quote it will suffice.

The worst exam I've ever taken was Monday just gone. Three hours to evaluate a short piece of text. Turns out everyone else answered the same question with completely different interpretations. ****ting myself that i've produced ten sides of irrelevant crap.
Reply 4
Our supo questions are past paper questions though. :s:
Reply 5
Our supo questions are past paper questions though. :s:

Yes, but you can write a lot about a topic and go into massive depth (i.e. supervision), or you can produce a more concise answer (i.e. exam). Think about it logically, there is no way they are going to mark supervision and exam answers in the same way. Otherwise we'd all end up with 3rds!
Reply 6
In writing an exam essay it is as important to consider what to leave out as what to include. Rather than covering all of a topic superficially, it is best to pick one direct line of argument and go into depth over just a few empirical examples.
Reply 7
Interesting essay.
Reply 8
Our supo questions are past paper questions though. :s:

Most of the ones I have done in history are also past questions: the difference I have found is that a supervision essay attempts to survey as many of the factual issues relating to the question as possible in some detail, whereas an exam essay is argument based, using only the selection of evidence that best serves your argument. For my essay on the industrial revolution, I wrote over 3000 words, but for an exam essay i wouldn't be looking at more than 4 sides of A4.
By the way: have you heard of some research that some members of HPSS over in Geography are doing at the moment? It deals with employment structure on a regional basis for 1751-1871, and has some really rather interesting conclusions so far. Here is the link:
The summary is only 15 pages or so.
Reply 9
Have you not done any practise timed essays for revision supervisions? If not I would try to do at least one in an hour and have it marked to give you a greater sense of what you need. My supervision essays tend to be concise anyway (1500-1800 words) so to "convert" to a tripos essay I would probably keep all the critical analysis and paraphrase my contextualisation/explanation bits. They are well aware that you can't go into supervision detail in an hour- what will give you the edge is your critical analysis.
Reply 10
Thanks Selena! My supo essays tend to be 1400-1500 words at max, so I can probably reproduce somthing similar in exams.
Reply 11
I'm useless at writing short essays, I get way too carried away and typically write 2300 words or so for my supo essays. I'm not looking forward to my essay paper- 4 essays in 3 hours, eek! That said, I know nothing about Classics so writing too much might not be an issue.
Reply 12
I get really frustrated in exams, because I can not physically write more than 3 sides in 45 minutes! I've had to resort to note form in 2 out of 3 exams for the last question. Any ideas on how to improve writing speed?
Reply 13
ONE side?
Reply 14
ONE side?

Yup, maybe two if they're lucky. If I write any more than that it'll degenerate into waffle. I did it this term, although the essays were usually typed, and I type much, much faster than I handwrite. Still, they attracted no unfavourable comments or criticism, and garnered good predictions. Last year I went for the standard 'write everything you know on forty sides of A4' trick.
Reply 15
Hmmmm, well. This year, my final year, I've found my weekly essays ending up being around the 4500-5000 word mark. No supervisor has ever told me that it's too long, it's better to be ambitious and have done a lot of work than not. Having written such expansive essays has stood me in good stead for these exams (I think...).

As someone who's written three years worth of supervision essays, and over 40 or so Cambridge exam essays (yowzers) I think the main difference is confidence. In an exam, you know your material inside out and you throw caution to the wind. You write with confidence and conviction and you grapple with the question, usually more theoretically and thoughfully than in a supervision essay where you churn out quotation after quotation. (PLEASE NOTE that "quote" is a verb, you quote a quotation. If you write "in this quote" the examiner may not be impressed)

My exam essays are usually 3 - 4 sides of A4 (single spaced). I fully advise spending an extra 5 minutes on planning so you're free to write. If you don't plan enough you lose direction and end up stopping and think "WTF am I writing, where the hell am I going" and feeling like your pen is possessed. You end up spending more time thinking what to do next than if you'd spent those extra minutes on the planning stage.

I'll attach something my supervisor sent out, and it's excellent advice. Take it.
The god that is my DoS


Please read this and think about it. I write it in the knowledge that you have all shown yourselves to be more than adept examinees in getting this far, but it will surely do no harm to take on a few more tips.

1. Be Consistent
This means (1) do your utmost to write proper answers to all the questions you’re asked to do – marks can plummet when you don’t do this; (2) do your utmost to be on good form in every paper – you can’t just give up on one as a consistent performance is necessary to hit your target; (3) don’t let any failure in (1) and (2) get to you, as the worst thing you can do for your consistency is to dwell on the past. So, with my absolute assurance that it’s terribly hard to judge performance in these exams from the inside, do not worry about what’s gone before: move on and continue trying to hit your standard.

2. Check Rubrics
You can do this IN ADVANCE now on the ‘Information for Candidates’ document on the Web. Double-check in the exam, bearing in mind any stipulations.

3. Answer Questions
So obvious, right? Well, it often doesn’t happen. Too many people just use the question as an opportunity to write an essay that they already wanted to write. That is OK up to a point, but the material needs to be turned to the issues of the question. Keep them in mind – and the problems and opportunities of the specific terms of the question – at the beginning, the end, and probably in the middle too. You can be quite explicit about showing how you’re focusing on it. For example: of course you may find yourself wanting to squeeze some material of one sort into a question that seems initially to be asking for something else, but if you reckon the question can be answered in relation to other stuff, explain why apparently tangential material actually informs the topic of the question. If you can’t explain, it’s probably a bad idea just to hope the examiner will forgive you.

4. Have Arguments
(This isn’t the time to tell you to have good material, or whatever – so my emphasis is on more superficial things, but no matter what your level of preparation you can benefit from getting the superficials right.)
Arguments: easy to neglect, even when answering questions. One criterion when choosing a question to answer should be: do I have something to argue in relation to this – not just relevant material, but actually a point or some points to make? So your best place to use, say, your stuff on the Shakespearean tragic hero might not be the apparent gift question on tragic heroes which has no issues you wish to tackle, but rather the thorny question on something else that means you can use your material in relation to a sharper argument. Not every paper will yield you opportunities to make lively, interesting arguments. For example, the question could be a proposition that you agree with; it might be an invitation to consider ‘in what ways renaissance writers did XYZ’ – not inherently dramatic. Then, you need to try to find some dynamic in your argument – to uncover something paradoxical, contradictory, or whatever, that thickens up your response. Find an angle. Don’t forget to have arguments. A key part of your task is to write essays: if you do the other bits (use good material, answer the question) without turning it into an essay, you’re missing a trick. Don’t just splurge your material down – that’s a self-defeating defence mechanism. NOTE – you may not have an argument at the start, but try to have one by the end… See (6) below.

5. Calm and Confident
Ignore other people: it is impossible to interpret their actions or behaviour usefully, e.g. the person who smirks arrogantly while writing three times as much as you is probably insane and not an example of the geniuses who should be doing these papers. Expecting to do well is actually a good strategy: a bit of positive visualisation never does any harm. Imagine yourself sitting down in the exam, opening the paper, finding questions, writing three essays, and leaving. (Don’t get too specific – it’s the general vibe you’re after.) This is what it will be like, and expecting it can make it even more so. FEEL WORTHY – this is terribly important: you have every right to pronounce judgement on these questions, to quibble with whatever statement (attributed or otherwise) with which you are confronted. It is your job to do this, so there is no possibility of presumption. And relax: these are not the most important things in the world, even if it is 100% worthwhile trying to do well in them.

6. Be Alert
Keep thinking throughout – don’t just go into automatic pilot. If you change your mind about your argument half way through then present it as an alternative approach – examiners like to see people thinking, responding, being intellectually flexible and actively critical. (Don’t be chaotic about it – but remember that a disciplined argument can vary and even end up running against the initial grain.) If your argument drifts, think about the best way of bringing it back to focus. If you come up with something clever spontaneously, then find a way of bringing it in – if you’re worried it may be flawed, say so (‘An alternative reading, which captures X but may not be able to account for Y, might be…&#8217:wink: – just as long as you are being responsive in the exam.

7. Do Not Be Alarmed By This Document
Lots of stuff here is ideal-world, on-a-good-day exam advice. It doesn’t all need to come together, but thinking about it in advance may help make it so…
^^^ That's really useful and interesting, thanks blissy! :smile:
Reply 17
I considered it when I posted it. Can't be arsed. You lot can do SOME work for it :p: (p.s. I suggest printing it out anyway!)
Reply 18
No because I would have to changed each line for some reason. My final final is tomorrow. I thought I was being helpful, I won't bother dispensing help (even in a format you have to take a wee bit of effort to alter) in future :mad:
No because I would have to changed each line for some reason. My final final is tomorrow. I thought I was being helpful, I won't bother dispensing help (even in a format you have to take a wee bit of effort to alter) in future :mad:

Thank you, it helped me! And I could read it perfectly fine.