I was chatting, earlier today,to one of the markers who is currently busy marking Strategic Level scripts for the recent (November 2009) exam. She was complaining that most (yes, she did say "most") of the students whose scripts she saw were failing the exam because they just weren't answering the questions. Her two main complaints were:
1. That many students just couldn't make any kind of decent attempt at questions with 'higher level' verbs, such as "analyse", or "evaluate"
2. That many students were actually writing the answers to previous exam questions on the same topic, as they'd obviously practised those questions on 'revision' courses.
The first point brought to mind an article that I wrote for CIMA, way back in 2005.
The second just illustrates the fact that students have a tendency to think that they can prepare answers in advance. It used to be (up to about 5 years ago) that most students would just write the memorised content of the textbook, and hope that the answer to the question might be 'in there somewhere'. Many students still do this, of course, but an increasing number seem to have stopped 'learning' the textbook, and started 'learning' the suggested answers to previous exam questions.
When I do presentations on exam technique, I always start with a 'why students fail' slide, and most people in my audience don't believe me. It turns out still to be true, I'm afraid. Here's the slide I use...