Answer Structure – Do I Really Need to Get It?

Hi Tutor MJ

What does it mean when I get a feedback on my mock script that I need an answer structure in place? I think I answer the questions okay, but this structure thing is really getting to me. I didn’t know I had to have one. I thought CIMA studies were about Accounting, not English.

Do I really need to get how to structure an answer?


Answer Structure - Do I Really Need to Get It?

Dear Donna

Imagine if you will, watching a regular movie at the cinema. You buy your tickets, queue for your popcorn, and then proceed inside the theatre where you promptly find a seat and prop yourself down.

The “coming soon” trailers start rolling and not long afterwards, the main feature begins.

You are excited, having wanted to see this film for a long time. As the movie starts its story, it flashes the face of the main character. And before you can even shout “action”, the ending of the movie starts to unravel right in front of you. Then, the film ends without so much as an explanation as to how it got to its conclusion in the first place. And you are sitting there dumbfounded.

Confused? Dissatisfying? More importantly, frustrating? Well, it’s a yes, yes and another yes.

That’s how we feel as markers when we see submitted scripts and the student’s answers are in shambles. When recommendations are made without proper justification. When conclusions are drawn without any supporting analyses or discussions.

It’s like telling your superior (boss) that you have to go with THIS decision just because.

And the favourite undertone of “you know what I mean“. As a marker, I will be honest. It continues to surprise me that students assume markers have psychic abilities when it comes to answers. So no, I do not know what you mean.

There should be logic in the way you tackle these case study questions.

I spoke about answer structure on one of my series, the “5 Wells of a Good Answer“. But I don’t think I elaborated enough except to say that the structure of “intro, body, conclusion” was the most basic and simplest one to use if you have nothing.

So now I thought I’d give more insight as to why it’s vital to have an answer structure.

Similar to a movie, you have an introduction, a middle part where things develop, and a conclusion in the end.

This might seem funny but the intro part really needs no grand introduction. This is where you raise the scenario, flag the issue, state the problem.

The middle part, sometimes known as the body, can be split in several sections, depending on how much key points you want to discuss and can realistically get to. This is where you list down options, choices, routes you could take. Discuss it further by exercising what-if scenarios, explaining the pros and cons of each option.

The end is where you put together what you’ve decided – your recommendation, your conclusion. And a one-sentence starting with “Based on the above, this is what we should do.” simply does not cut it. The thought process needs to be mapped out well on how you eventually got there.

I encourage you to spend some time crafting this technique into your preparation strategy. However, while an answer structure is vital to show focus and logic, please do not forget that what’s written between the lines (meaning addressing the exam requirements) is what ultimately will pass you.

I hope this gives you insight as to the importance of the answer structure and how it greatly improves answer techniques in the long run.

Good luck for the exam!

Your tutor

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