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8th July 2017

How your long-forgotten exam technique could be just the thing to improve your bids

With the GCSE and A level season upon us, thousands of young students are realising that good exam technique is just as important as subject knowledge. If you think anything you learnt at school is no longer relevant, think again. There are many parallels to be drawn between preparing for a bid and preparing for an exam. Get it right in both cases, and you’ll reap the future rewards many times over.

So, maybe it’s been a while…but just how good is your exam technique? Be honest, how many of the following rules – all very familiar from school days – do you actually apply in writing a bid, without fail?

1. Don’t start until you’ve read everything

As tempting as it is to skim read an ITT and all its appendices, make sure you read and digest all the available information before you do anything else. At least twice. Once to understand what is being asked for. And then to understand what’s really being asked for (you’ll need to read between the lines the second time).

2. Understand the scoring system

It’s vital that you are aware of how your bid is gong to be marked. Only then can you make sure you are preparing a response that gives enough detail in the right places to get the highest possible score. Plus, you need to work out straight away whether there are any questions you’re going to struggle to answer. (You should answer them first.)

3. Answer the question

It sounds obvious, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people answer the question they want to be asked, rather than the one they are actually asked. Map out your response to follow the flow or logic from the original specification, making it easy to see how you’ve addressed the requirement in full. Don’t just include everything you know about a topic, hoping that the evaluator be able to find what they’re looking for.

4. Answer all the questions

Not quite the same as the previous rule, but just as important. It’s so easy to inadvertently miss out some vital requirement and therefore miss out on vital points. (Or worse, you might even be disqualified.) Make sure you have a system for working out exactly what information and outputs need to be provided with your bid.

5. Understand how much time is available

Time management is key in bidding. Since this is an all-or-nothing situation (there really is no point in submitting a part-finished bid), you must stick doggedly to a realistic timetable that gives the right amount of time to each aspect of the task (see rule 2!).

6. Check your work

Build in time at the end to make sure your submission is as good as it can be. The people evaluating your paper will more than likely be detail-focused. Look out for fluff, jargon, unsubstantiated claims, benefits that are not qualified, half-answered questions, off-topic responses…Oh, and definitely check for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.

So, how did you do? Clue – you really must be scoring 6 out of 6 on this test, if you want your bids to be winners. These rules really are only common sense, but, as many a student will be finding out then exam results are published, they can make all the difference to the final result.

Emma Jaques is the author of Bid Management and The Winning Bid, both published by Kogan Page. Emma is MD at Onto the Page, Leeds-based bid consultancy, offering a bespoke opportunity search service, bid support and bid skills training.

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