Section B: PCIAM: The ‘three-line’ structure for writing an essay answer in the PCIAM exam [CISI Private Client Investment Advice and Management exam]
What to do first – read the question carefully and underline the key words.
(you will be coming back to the question being asked regularly).
The structure is divided into three parts:
1. Start with your conclusion:
This final paragraph will start…. ’’In conclusion……’’ and re-use the words in the question to help you conclude…’’QE has been successful in part because…
Describe YOUR own view and why/how you have come to that view…
’’It is clear to me that this is ….because…..of this.’’
It’s a good plan to start writing this first.
Plan your destination first and then plan your journey.
2. Main body – 80% of your essay is in the main body
(We’ll use this week’s essay question as an example:‘’Has Quantitative Easing (QE) been successful?)
Start by writing a very short answer to the assignment question:‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ – or perhaps two words: ‘not quite’, ‘only sometimes’…bearing in mind it is never, ever a straightforward answer.
In academic or critical evaluation, there is never a simple, one-sided answer – you should always provide a balanced argument, with your final conclusion based on your judgement and reasons why justified from the main text.
QE has not been successful for everyone, all of the time.
Expand the very short answer into a sentence summarising your reason for giving the short answer.
QE has been successful for some people, some organisations and some businesses in the UK. It has not been successful for everyone, all of the time.
Then expand that sentence into 3 sentences by giving more detail.
Do it this way (using because to join-up your ‘judgement’ to your ‘reasons why’)
1. QE has been successful for some people, some organisations, some businesses in the UK, particularly those individuals and businesses holding assets. Those assets have seen increasing prices and increasing wealth for those holding them.
2. It has not been successful for everyone, all of the time. Success can be measured in a number of different ways – rising asset prices does not always mean success, if you are reliant on income from pensions or savings.
3. If you are neither holding an asset nor a pension, then the effect of QE has been negligible – or has it? Where has the macro-economic benefits been seen?
This is the first stage.
Now, you could go on and do more sentences, but three is good to start.
4. The Use each sentence to become the basis for a substantive paragraph.
The paragraphs should:
a. Reason 1: first criteria/Statement/sentence
b. Support/data for criteria 1/analysis
c. Address pros/cons, positives/negatives, advantages/disadvantages/evaluation
Think about this structure for each paragraph:
”QE has been successful for some people, some organisations, some businesses in the UK, particularly those individuals and businesses holding assets. Those assets have seen increasing prices and increasing wealth for those holding them….”
b. Supporting data: this is the technical bit – this is where you provide the evidence/examples and this is where you win the technical marks:
c. Explain the significance. Address pros/cons, positives/negatives, advantages/disadvantages ……and how does it support your view or otherwise (which is your first sentence – a – above).
Do that for ALL three sentences and you will be well on your way to having a good essay structure for your main content.
Then do your Introduction
Explain in one short sentence the purpose of the essay by outlining the nature of the subject.
Then outline your point of view on the problem.
Then explain your content, your experience/knowledge and sub-themes which you will explore – with maybe why.
Finish with writing your Introduction
Re-state the question/big-picture/the reasons it’s important and what/how you are going to evaluate the question…
WRITE THIS LAST.
This is your essay plan for your Section B in PCIAM. When it’s put together nicely – it tells a beautiful story.
How about Friday morning for a chat about writing your essay and we’ll go through this week’s essay with a suggested plan for the next 5 weeks: what to study and how.
See you then.