What are the Common Mistakes Found in Writing Literary Answers at The Exam?

When you produce a written answer in the exam, there are certain things to be considered. When the examiners go through the answer scripts of students of literature, it is commonly found certain mistakes and errors in students. Here, it is referred to a sample of Asian students, but for other countries these errors and mistakes can be the same. You can leave a comment about your experience in the comment section.

Of course, there no strict boundaries and rules in writing, most importantly, if you have developed your own writing style, you can follow it for sure. However, when you face a written text in exam, you have to adhere to the guidelines in writing to score stipulated marks. You can adapt your own, unique style of writing to the formats of standard writing to overcome this issue.

Let us see what are the common errors and mistakes found in your writings.

No proper beginning

Beginning of an answer is the most important part of any piece of writing. If you start well, consider half of the work done. When marking through the answer script, these common errors and mistakes found.

  1. No opening paragraph at all: In the opening paragraph you should introduce what is your stand in the argument. You should explain this is how I am going to answer the question. You should highlight key words and points highlighted in the question. Missing an opening paragraph is a big negative point in your answer.
  2. Unnecessary introductions: Most students tend to write about the poets and writers and a heap of background details of the genre. This is not that necessary. You should provide those details only if necessary. Directly start the process of answering rather than beating the bush around. You have to hit the nail on the spot at the very beginning.
  3. Providing quotations from the text at the beginning: Normally quotations are not provided in the opening paragraph because here we do not prove anything but setting the scene to the question.
  4. Being personal or bias: Students sometime start the opening using their personal touch like I think, it is true, it is a wonderful story, X is a great character, Y is a wonderful poet…etc. It is believed that to be a good answer it should be less bias, impersonal and less involvement of emotions. Avoid being personal that means do not write telling this is what I think, instead write what you see proving them using the evidences from the text.
  5. Too short or too lengthy opening paragraph.
  6. Not discussing the question but discussing the genre.


No proper ending

Ending too is as important as the beginning. In the ending you should conclude your argument stressing your stand of the argument. If the question is: ‘Is Kamala Das a rebellious character?’ You should sum up your answer stressing whether she is rebellious or not.

You canread the must check list after writing here.


Of course, we can understand there can be abrupt endings where the candidate has no time to sum up his or her answer, it is ok, everybody knows that can happen. However, you should try to provide a better ending to get a good mart at the exam.


Not touching the key words.

Key words or key points are the heart of an answer. They are wrapped inside the question and you should find them and discuss them in your answer. When reading the question, you can take a pencil or a highlighter to underline the key words and phrases. These key words should be recurrently appearing in your answer so that examiner know you are trying to prove the key points.

If we take an example: in the question: ‘what technique does Tennyson use to create a majestic image of a bird in his poem the eagle, discuss.’ The key words here are ‘techniques’ and ‘majestic bird.’ So, as a candidate you should stress those words and discuss the techniques used to describe the majestic bird.


Not following the proper paragraph structure.

There are some accepted methods to form a paragraph of a literary answer/ or any answer. Most of the time a literary answer is argumentative type, so each paragraph should be aimed at proving points of your argument. If you provide full quotations, you can read How to write a paragraph using quotations here. You can read about a Hamburg style of a paragraph here.


Improper way of using quotations.  

We provide quotations to prove our argument. Some students provide wrong or incomplete quotations in their piece of writing. This is considered as a crime in an answer. If you are not sure or do not know the correct quotation, better find alternative ways to produce the same evidence rather that providing a wrong quote. Instead you can use single word quotations or phrase quotations. You can provide specific words in the quotation inside the line while paraphrasing. You can use single quote marks (‘’) to show this is the quoted word.

For example, see this: The ‘crooked hands’ of the Eagle ‘clasps the crag’ proving the corrupted nature of power.

For the purpose of examinations, you can by heart golden quotations and easy to remember quotations. If the quotation is too long, no need to produce the whole quotation, you can simply produce first few words then three dots (…) and provide the end few words. The creative thing is, try to adapt the quotation in your mind according to the question. That means you have to be tactful enough to use your existing knowledge relevant to the question at the exam.

Please, do not miss-spell the quotes nor the names of the authors. That can be devastating sometimes as there are similar named authors and it shows your carelessness or the lack of knowledge of the subject matter you discuss. (It is a disgrace to the author too.)


Grammatical errors.

Another common feature of answers is wrong grammar. If you do not write the answer using proper grammar, your intended answer may not be written. Normally, when you produce a literary answer, the Simple Present Tense is preferred. It is natural to have grammatical mistakes when producing an answer as it is a spot production. Few mistakes can be forgiven but consistent errors can be harmful for your final grade. The best way to minimize grammatical mistakes is to double check your answer after writing. Having a mind map or a plan before writing too help to reduce grammatical errors.


Not answering the question

This is common among beginner students. They tend to provide things that they know about the genre irrespective to what is asked in the question or they produce some other’s notes to the question given. To avoid this, you should try to develop your own style of writing. (you have to jump into the water to learn swimming, so to develop a style of writing, you have to start writing your own answers as much as possible.) You can get the support of a teacher to check and mark your answers.

Some students go astray as they do not read the question properly. So you have to read the question twice or thrice until you fully understand the question and key points. Have a rough chart of the answer in a separate paper before start writing.


These are some mistakes I found in my students’ answer scripts. I believe this post will be helpful for you to reduce the mistakes in your writing and produce better answers at the exam. As teachers or students what common errors or mistakes you find in your or your students answers? Please let us know by leaving a comment. Share the post if you find this useful to others.  



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