Essay writing is thought to be relevant in assessing students’ maturity and critical thinking skills. Medical school curricular in Malaysia must adhere to essay writing since Malaysian students in particular are less empowered to present their views in the form of writing.
Writing essay teaches students to present facts which are basically pieces of information, state of affairs or sets of relations that is usually valid and reliable. In doing so, students have to provide evidences which come in the form of materials that furnish proof whether being drawn from observations or analysis to support their hypothesis or claim.
Critical thinking is assessed via essay writing. Students would be asked to argue based on conflicting ideas, set of propositions (containing evidence of many sorts) or advance a particular conclusion.
Avoid making questions which require recall knowledge and rhetoric answer. In the pejorative sense, rhetoric answer is merely persuasion that lacks substance.
Marking essay question is very subjective and in most instances, operator-dependent. Steps have to be taken to reduce subjectivity by having standardized, vetted model answer, pre-marking as well as post-marking discussion, consensus agreement and audit by external examiners.
We must avoid the belief that: “very few people seek knowledge, yet very few of them present the knowledge with good justification, explanation and balance critical thinking”.