Project an Aura of Competence

If the examiner is a human being, they will be susceptible to cognitive biases which you can take advantage of. Cognitive biases are fundamental patterns of thought that influence the way we behave. They are consistent across all people.

It does not matter whether the official guidelines for examiners require them to be impartial. These biases are hardwired into our brains, which means it is virtually impossible to eliminate them.

For example, the first impression you create will frame the rest of what you have written. It sets the tone for the rest of your assessment. If you write a fantastic introduction to your essay, the examiner will automatically read the rest of your essay as if you are a star student. They may not even realise it.

Project an aura of competence into your answers and you will positively colour the examiner’s experience of everything that you do. A few simple changes to the way you produce your answers can make a huge difference. These changes may seem small or superficial but they work. An aura of competence presents you as someone who knows what they are doing and makes the whole marking process much smoother for an examiner.


Messy answers create friction. They force the examiner to divert their time, energy and patience to deciphering your scrawl. They make it difficult for the examiner to understand what you are trying to express. In short, messy answers are horribly frustrating to mark.

Why do premium products always arrive in premium packaging? Why don’t companies save some money and just wrap everything in brown cardboard?

The answer: because they know that the presentation of a product influences a customer’s perception of that product. It doesn't matter that the product and its packaging are completely separate objects.

Premium packaging is about making the route to the product as pleasant and painless as possible. Premium packaging even affects the experience of the product itself.

How can you present your answers in premium packaging?

Do these simple things and you will clear away the sources of friction between your answers and the examiner.

There is a hidden benefit to this. By forcing yourself to present your answers well, your understanding of exam material also becomes clearer and more structured. There is an unbreakable link between your presentation and your knowledge. After all, your answers are a representation of the way you think. An aura of competence is more than just an illusion.

Be Concise

Do not fall into the trap of thinking that more is better. Your answers should be extremely clear and get straight to the point. Avoid irrelevant information and waffly language. This is true for all types of question. Concise answers are much easier for the examiner to make sense of and award marks to. They are also much easier for you to learn from, modify and review during your preparation.

The ability to identify and communicate only the information that is important to the question demonstrates a very high level of understanding, but this will not always come easily. Producing concise answers is a skill which you must develop.

Practice rewriting answers in fewer words while preserving content and meaning. You might be surprised at how much text you can eliminate. Look at mark schemes for inspiration. Most importantly, use bullet points...

Bullet Points

Every written question which isn’t an essay should be answered using bullet points. You should write one bullet point per mark available. So if a question is worth 3 marks, you need 3 bullet points. You don't even have to use full sentences.

Why are bullet point answers so good?

Don't be scared that your bullet point answers look short. If they contain the relevant information, you will get the marks.