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Quality not quantity: Students warned against long exam answers

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Is writing more really going to get you the marks? Apparently not. Source: Shutterstock.

Brevity is the soul of wit as the saying goes so if you think a lengthy exam answer guarantees you a top grade, think again.

An A-level student discovered this the hard way when his 27-page answer in an English Literature exam scored him a meagre E grade – just enough to scrape the pass mark.

The Independent reported researchers have concluded there is little benefit to lengthy essays.

A study from Cambridge Assessment found writing over 1,300 words in an A-level English Literature exam does not necessarily mean a high grade will be awarded.

Cambridge Assessment researcher Tom Benton told The Independent: “As with the GCSE analysis, quantity does not trump quality. The curve flattens off at around 1,300 words per essay, and so writing more than this isn’t consistently associated with getting higher marks.”

The research analysed data from the 2016 OCR A-Level English Literature exam.

Benton and his team found one student was able to secure an A* grade with two essays which totalled just three pages.

The average number of words written by A-level English Literature students per hour currently stands at 1,000, which is 17 words per minute.

The student who wrote 27 pages may well have overtaken that average, but as it turned out, there was clearly insufficient substance to his work and therefore, no reward for the effort.

There have been previous studies on the ‘ideal’ length of a GCSE English Literature essay, with researchers concluding students should not write too little, but equally not write too much either.

So maybe put down that pen, pick up that textbook and do a little more studying so you can learn how to say a lot more in way fewer words.

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