Tips on How to Structure Your Exam Responses

I hope you have all had a wonderful week; you're so close to exam day! Today, we're going to be discussing how to structure your PDHPE responses. I thought I had smashed my first PDHPE assessment in year 11. I knew all the content, and I could answer all the questions; my marks said otherwise. I soon learned that knowing the content is only one component of answering PDHPE questions. The two most significant things I had neglected in that first assessment were addressing the NESA syllabus verbs and having any structure to my writing. I just word dumped all the information from my head to the paper, which may get you a few marks but not close to full marks.


I'm going to introduce you to a concept that I like to call the "Golden Framework to answer PDHPE questions". It involves three stages that will help you approach, plan, and finally answer any PDHPE short answer question thrown your way.


Stage 1: The breakdown


1. Read and then re-read the question.


2. Highlight (or underline) the key verb. This will inform you about how to answer the question. The key verb should give you a general idea about how to scaffold your response. I recommend brainstorming a list of key phrases that help you answer certain verb types, e.g. "this is highly effective", for evaluate. The most common PDHPE verbs tend to be:

· Evaluate / assess

· Explain

· Justify

· Compare

· Discuss

· Analyse


3. Underline the relevant syllabus content, so you know what to include in your response. Some questions require you to link multiple syllabus areas. I would recommend annotating the side of your exam paper to ensure you don't miss any crucial parts of the question.


4. Re-read the question to ensure you're not missing any important links or hidden tricks in the question's wording.


Stage 2: Planning


In particular, for long mark questions, it is vital to write a brief plan at the top of your page. This will help you structure your response effectively and ensure you don't step away from what the question is asking you. You may want to write a checklist of the syllabus content you need to include or the keywords you want to include in your response so you don't miss anything out. As you go through writing your response, you can mark off each point as you go.


Stage 3: Answering the question


Once you have a good grasp of what the question is asking you and a solid idea about how you're going to structure your response, you can now dive into the actual answering of the question.


1. Start with a solid and direct opening statement that helps outline the main direction your response is going and addresses the area of the syllabus that you're talking about. If you're unsure what to include, it can be helpful to define the most crucial concept that you'll be addressing to help start the process. Generally, starting the question is the most challenging part!


2. Point: Introduce your first main point that you'll be talking about. For example, if you're answering an Ottawa Charter question, you may introduce the first action area by defining it.


3. Example: Examples are everything! If appropriate, include an example to back up and shed light on the point you're trying to make. It's essential to include PDHPE specific "buzz words" in your response to help add sophistication to your writing.


4. Elaborate: Don't just drop your example in and move on to the following example. You need to clearly show the relationship between your example and the overarching point. After doing this, you may provide a bit more context or depth to add to your original point.


5. Link: It is crucial that at the end of each point, you need to link it back to the main question before you move on to your next point. It may feel very repetitive, but it is crucial to link what you're saying back to the question so the examiner can see that you're linking content back to the question. Use linking words such as “therefore”, “this demonstrates”, “thus …”


6. Repeat! Continue this "PEEL" structure for every point that you introduce to your writing. Depending on the mark allocation, you may only have to follow this structure once or twice, but for 8-9 markers, you may be completing this structure upward of 6 times!


7. Summary: At the end of your response, include a concise sentence that sums up the main argument and links all your points back to the question. For certain questions, such as evaluate, you may wish to provide a final judgement statement or choose a broader linking statement for lower-order verbs.


Ideas for study breaks


Research has shown that sitting down for hours on end can have a negative effect on mental and physical health. Even though it's easy to get wrapped up in a practice paper or learn a particular topic, it's crucial that you get up and moving every 1-2 hours. What I liked to do as a quick 5-minute "brain break" was to put on a YouTube dance video! I feel sorry for anyone who witnessed my not so in time dance moves … It's an excellent way to get a quick endorphin rush and a break to help you study more efficiently. If dancing isn't your thing, find something you love that gets you out of your chair, such as a short yoga routine, some stretches, go and pat your dog or even some karaoke!


I hope you smash through all your study this week, speak to you next week for the final week of preparation – woohoo! J


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