Not that long ago we got an email from a professional exam instructor and author. More specifically, she actually writes questions and essay problems for the CPA examination for the certified public accountant license test. She said she also was hired by a company that makes one of the best cpa review courses. She had an interesting question about how to improve her writing and thought process to create more difficult exam questions. Here is her actual question.
“Hi, Gotta Write Network. I am a writer and author for the certified public accountant exam and I have a few questions about what can make my writing more pointed. I write questions that need to be purposely confusing but ultimately arrive at a single point. What I mean by that is, the question should give the candidate no extra information and allow them to think about their knowledge of the subject without giving away the answer. In this respect, the question can often be applied to two or three of the multiple-choice answers, but if the candidate understands the question, it will only arrive at one, correct answer. What type of thought process can I practice to get into this type of writing?”
Obviously, this question kind of threw us through a loop. We are typically used to questions about how to make your writing more clear and precise – not less clear and vague. I think the main thing to understand with a topic like this is the actual topic you are writing about. In order to make the questions understandable but ultimately convoluted, you have to understand the subject matter extremely well. Now I don’t doubt that you do understand most of the accounting information, you might not understand the actual topics being asked. Get a good foundation for this information and you will be able to twist your questions in many different ways. Here is some more information about the exam.
You might also be interested in some type of thought process exercises. For example, you might want to practice thinking of scenarios that have two different outcomes depending on how you think of the phrasing. An example of this would be a car accident. Depending on how you frame the driver in the question, you could assume it was or was not his fault. This way it’s left up the reader to actually determine how the accident happened and who caused it. There are tons of other examples, but I think it’s important to understand how people think during the exam. Here’s a resource about how people pass the CPA exam.
Once you understand the subject matter and understand how the average exam takers thinking during the test, you can properly formulate the questions to evoke the right answers. I’m not sure if they explanation helped, but we’d love to have a dialog about it in future articles. We love to talk about the writer’s mindset and what makes a successful writer no matter what they are writing.