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Written Exercises

What is a written exercise?

This covers any exercise where you write/ type full answers, perhaps one or two or even several pages. It’s not a multiple choice or short answer test, but something that requires you to write proper paragraphs of text, structured in an appropriate way, covering your analysis/ proposal/ strategy/ recommendations/ pros and cons/ answers/ plans or whatever else the question paper asks you to provide. There will be clear instructions and a time limit.

Types of written exercise

  • An analysis exercise
  • An inbox/ in-basket or in-tray exercise
  • Invigilated essay or pre-prepared essay question
  • Strategy or proposal
  • Case study

The similarity between these tasks is that there will be information for you to evaluate or a question to answer and instructions on how to then respond e.g. with a memo, a recommendation, a proposal, an essay.

The difference between them will be in the specific instructions e.g. you may be asked to ‘evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of a new initiative and make recommendations’ or you may be asked to ‘complete the content of your in-basket, responding to each item appropriately.’

A written exercise will be used to assess a range of skills such as communication, planning, analytical ability, prioritisation, team work, high standards, understanding of clinical priorities- depending on the role.

The way the information will be presented may vary a little but what the assessors will be looking for will be very much the same. Don’t be put off by the name of the exercise, whichever one it is will require you to read and understand some background information or a written scenario and respond to the task described.

In-basket/ Inbox Exercise

It depends on the role as to what type of tasks you would expect to turn up in your in-box, on your desk or to be given at the start of a shift. For instance, in a more senior role you may expect to deal with complaints, implement procedure, keep records, and manage budgets. In your in-basket assessment exercise you would have to do similar things. This gives employers a chance to see how you would handle these things in as close to a real situation as possible.

Case study/ Analysis/ Proposal Exercise

A case study or analysis exercise may present a single relevant situation or problem for you to evaluate and propose recommendations. If you are applying for a job which involves implementing new initiatives, contributing to raised standards of care or managing with limited resources for instance, you may expect to have to deal with a task which involves you tackling similar things.

Invigilated/ Pre-prepared Essay

Another type of exercise is a more traditional essay. You may be sent essay titles in advance, which you can choose from, this allows you to do some research and prepare to write the paper on your test day. Or you may not be given the topic until you are there and have to complete the essay ‘off the cuff’. You may be sent some reading to do prior to the essay assessment e.g. a relevant NHS paper or set of guidelines, which you would then expect to tie in to the question you need to answer in essay form. This pre-reading gives you an advantage in that you know what is important to the employer, so you need to make sure you reflect the priorities you have read about when you answer the essay question.

For this exercise you will probably have a chance to reflect your knowledge, your experience, your opinions, your attitudes and your wider reading which will all form part of your answer.

Written Exercise Success

Exercise setting
Your assessment exercise may not be set within a familiar environment. This is to make the task fair for everyone. Imagine that if you are external to the Trust and the exercises are set within the specific department you are applying for; that would be quite an advantage for any internal candidates applying.

Exercise headings/ names
The name of the task or exercise may be different from the ones we have listed here, as some organisations like to feel they are doing something different! But essentially the instructions and expectations will be the same. If you follow the guidelines and are clear what the organisation values/ priorities and try to tie this in, it’s a good start.

Structuring your answers
Follow the instructions. If it doesn’t say specifically how they want it laid out then use your own judgement. Use paragraphs (no one wants to read an A4 sheet of unbroken text) and apply headings. These signpost to the reader that you are following a logical order and what they can expect to follow from the section they have just read. If you sketch out your headings in rough first it will also help you make sure your paper doesn’t jump from topic to topic in a way that is difficult to follow.

 

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