Writing Tip 4: Acing Written Assessments

Discussion in 'Public Feedback Forum' started by Hazal, Apr 14, 2019.

  1. Hazal

    Hazal Legendary Member
    Future Trainee

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    Hello and happy Sunday! I hope this post finds everyone well, whatever you might be up to if it is exams, applications or vac schemes! My next writing topic is about acing written exercises in assessment centres, for anyone who might have TC assessments in the near future.

    Naturally, your writing will be guided by the topic or the nature of the task, but I hope to provide some general tips that can be applied to the majority of these exercises.

    1) Know what the exercise is asking of you, before writing

    This step is pretty self-explanatory. However, with every comprehension exercise, you will be marked down badly if you don’t focus on the most important parts of the task. Using the example of a Simmons & Simmons written assessment; the task involved writing a report on which building, out of three, you would recommend that the law firm moves into. The brief gave a few pointers on what Simmons partners wanted from their office space, including indoor and outdoor amenities, prestige, space for more employees etc. The category list was extensive and there wasn’t time to go into them all in detail. However, thinking commercially, you could tell what was the most important, and that was cost and potential for expansion. Weighing the importance of the information in front of you, therefore, will give you a basic structure for your writing. It is a conscious effort to tick the boxes that the firm is looking for. With this in mind, I made sure to make the cost of the rent and what that rent was providing the firm in terms of value, the focal point of my paragraphs. However, this does not mean that the smaller points, such as the building’s environmental rating, was inconsequential. I would simply advise that you judge which pointers you give more time and writing to.

    2) Adapt your language to suit the format and conclude your argument in the first paragraph

    Before writing, consider the format of the writing you are putting together. Is it a letter, are you briefing a client in an email, is it a report? Based on this, you should attempt to meet the expectations of the format as closely as you can. Again, I will use the example of my Simmons assessment, wherein the writing assessment was in the form of a report, that was to be sent to the partners of the firm. Although the firm may not put a heavy emphasis on this, it looks well for you if you can show what is expected from a basic report. Lay out your analysis into a paragraph per point, construct a succinct yet overarching introduction. Your language should suggest that this is a report and not the writing of an interviewee at an assessment center. I found that the best way to demonstrate this was in my introduction, by providing a quick overview of what I was going to write, with language such as: “This report will attempt to provide an insight into...”, “ultimately, the findings of this report are...”

    On that note, ensure that your introduction contains a mini conclusion. This will help you in the likelihood that you cannot complete the assessment because it ensures that you would have completed an essential part of the task: coming to a certain conclusion. Whatever the task, do not sit on the fence. Even if there are arguments for and against, I believe presenting a strong argument for your opinion speaks well of you as a potential lawyer.

    Finally, consider your audience. I’ve had tasks that were directed towards clients as well as partners and it's expected that you will change your writing to suit who you are addressing. Clients need simplicity and for points to be direct, as well as the law to be broken down into easy, understandable language. They also want to understand the impact of the advice you are providing them, on their business. Although partners will want the same simplicity, the relationship between yourself (supposedly a trainee) and them is different, since you are working for the same firm.

    3) Time is of the essence

    Everybody says that the time given for a written assessment isn’t enough. And it isn’t. However, I believe that no matter the time given to you, it will never be enough. Therefore, thinking about how much time you have, before you start reading or writing, is essential. Judge how much time you need to read (should be much less than your writing) according to the total time you’ve been given. Then, think about dividing your time accordingly with the paragraphs you’ll be writing. I’ve made the mistake of trying to give the same amount of time to each of my pointers before. In hindsight, I realized that (unlike essay writing), mentioning smaller points without extensive explanation might be enough. Unfortunately, because of this, I didn’t get to write about the points I thought would impress the assessor more.

    These tips are pretty basic and general in their nature. If anyone has any specific questions about written assessments or has an example of a task they’d like tips on, please let me know in the comments box below!
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