AS Unit 2: The final push – writing effective examination essays

With Unit 2 now just a couple of days away, I thought it an opportune moment to remind readers of our blog that gaining ‘big’ marks in the relatively more challenging essay questions is not all that difficult, if you follow a few simple rules.

The four points below should help you to become a more efficient essay writer and get higher marks for your efforts. Of course, higher marks equal happier students and more grateful parents!

1) Any individual question that is worth more than 6 marks requires a combination of AO1 (description) and AO2 (evaluation) in equal parts. These are not always 12 marks, but may also be 8 or 10 marks. In the equivalent paper last summer, biological psychology had a 12 marker, social and individual differences each had 8 markers.

2) In order to make sure that you address both components (i.e. AO1 and AO2) equally, it is a good idea to divide the essay up into a number of discrete parts, each exclusively AO1 or AO2. Whatever the question (e.g. ‘Outline and evaluate two…’, ‘Discuss the… approach to…’), it can be divided into much smaller components. One easy way of doing this is to divide your material into four separate paragraphs, each about 75 or so words), almost as if you were answering four much smaller questions that together make up the requirements of the larger essay question. The first paragraph is entirely AO1, the second AO2, the third AO1 and the fourth AO2. Alternatively, you could go for six paragraphs of 50 words, each containing just one elaborated point.

3) You will get more marks for detailed AO1 and elaborated AO2, so don’t try to cram as many points as possible into your answer, be selective with what you include and give it some impact. There are many ways of elaborating an AO2 point – e.g. identify (what’s the critical point?), elaborate (flesh it out a bit),  evidence (give evidence to support the critical point you are making) and link back (make it clear how/why this supports or challenges the theory, study, explanation etc.

4) Don’t waste time doing things that you haven’t been asked to do (e.g. telling the examiner what you are about to do, defining terms you haven’t been asked to define and anything else that is not explicitly asked for in the question), i.e. use your time wisely and efficiently.

Good luck and be skilful on Tuesday

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