How to write an A-Level History Essay: To what extent…./How far….

Hiya guys! 

So this is my new series of posts helping you write the best essays you can. Whether you hate History or are aiming for an A* and to continue doing this at university, going into an exam knowing exactly HOW to write the entire exam (because it’s all essay unfortunately) will help you secure the grade you want. 

So! There are different types of questions you can be given but the most common one (for an non-source question) will probably begin with “to what extent” i.e. “to what extent do bananas increase a monkey’s hyperactive and crazy behaviour {20 marks}” or more seriously (and topic related) “To what extent do you agree that the introduction of the statue of artificers was the most significant improvement to the government of the localities in the year 1485-1603?”

This type of structure applies to “how far” questions as well. 

So, here we go: 

Like I said in my previous post, the introduction can be argued to be the most important aspect of an essay (to what extent do you agree that the introduction of an essay is the most important part of an essay…. 🙂 ) 

WARNING: Long post 🙂 

Introduction:

  • Outline the argument of the question. (1-2 lines)
  • Context (2-3 lines)
  • Criteria (2-3 lines)
  • Other significant factors (2-3 lines)

Paragraph 1: Point in the question

  • Re-phrase the question to answer whether or not the point included in the title was the most significant (1 line).
  • Explain briefly what/when it was (1-2 lines)
  • Evidence (1-2 lines)
  • Analyse by considering the criteria outlined in the introduction. (5-6 lines)
  • Judgement and link back to question (1-2 lines)

So this paragraph should always be about the factor included in the question, regardless if you agree that it’s the most significant/important. 

 

Paragraph 2-4: Most important point after one in the question

  • Re-phrase the question to answer whether or not the point included in the title was the most significant (1 line).
  • Explain briefly what/when it was (1-2 lines)
  • Evidence (1-2 lines)
  • Analyse by considering the criteria outlined in the introduction i.e. successes/failures (5-6 lines)
  • Judgement/comparison to PIQ and link back to question (1-2 lines)

This paragraph should be about either the second most important OR the factor/event you think is most significant/important if it isn’t the factor included in the question. Don’t be afraid to argue this! One of the best reasons about History is there is no wrong answer to some extent (to what extent is there no wrong answer in history…okay I will stop 😉 ) but seriously, if you can back your point up with evidence and clear reasoning then you’ve got yourself a good essay. 

Conclusion

  • Answer the question (1 line)
  • Summarize [analysis/explanation] using criteria (1-2 lines)
  • Summarize significance of key points using criteria (3-5 lines)
  • Extent you think statement is true using criteria: “To a certain extent” “to a great extent” “To a minor extent”

That’s it! It’s a lot, I know. But don’t worry the more you practice, the better you will become.  Quickly, some  extra help for the exam:

  • aim for 4 points – better to have 4 well thought out, well analysed points that 7 hastily written and kinda sucky ones 
  • Prioritize the conclusion – if you’re running out of time and you’re not on your conclusion, move to your conclusion. It’s better to have a conclusion and a half written point than a point and no conclusion. Even if this means leaving a few lines to go back to, prioritize your conclusion.
  • Plan, Plan, PLAN – I don’t think I can stress this enough. Spending 5 minutes outlining your points, jotting down a few notes on evidence, analysis on links will save you time later in the exam but also stop you from straying from what the question is asking you. I know in an exam you want to start writing ASAP but taking a breather, finding where you stand can ensure you have SUSTAINED judgement all the way through (something examiners are looking for). And the more you practise the quicker you will be. It now takes me approximately 3 minutes to plan my answers in an exam.
  • Timings – finally, before I do anything in my exams I mark out next to each question when I need to stop and start the next question (I even mark out planning time). So it looks kinda like: Question 1: start plan: 9, start writing: 9:05, finish writing: 9:45. And begin process again. 

Anyway! Hope this helps guys, have a nice evening and I hope your mocks go well 🙂

Best Wishes, 

History A2 xx

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How to write an A-Level History Essay

Hi guys! So I haven’t updated in a while and the way I have structured my revision means I may not for a little while longer. So in my free time I have decided to write a some posts that will hopefully help you all during your studies. 

How to write an essay. 

A-Level history is a lot more demanding than GCSE and to get high grades you have to be able to write a good essay. Effectively (and from personal experience), this means there are four things to a good essay: 

  1. Knowledge. This one is pretty basic, at the end of the day, you need to know your stuff. You won’t be penalized because you spelt “transformismo” wrong but not knowing when the second world war started (1939 – in case you weren’t sure 😉 ) that might effect how the examiner percieves your essay. 
  2. Structure. Your essay needs to flow, not just in the fluency of your language (so 1  complex sentence instead of 3 simple sentence) but also your points. You need an introduction and a conclusion, but between these your points need to flow between each other, try and find links between points and use that as a basis to your plan . In terms of individual paragraph structure, PECAL is the best way to do it. Point, Evidence,Context (I’ve added this, teachers have always told me to add context or a breif explanation about your point and evidence), Analysis, Link (back to the question). Sticking to this ensure you cover everything you need for a good essay. I will cover this in more detail in later posts.
  3. Analysis – So you’ve P-ed – you’ve crafted the perfect topic sentence to tell the examiner your point, you’ve explained (context) and got some evidence in there. That’s great, that’s your knowledge. Check. A* GCSE, C A-Level. TO get a higher mark at A-Level you need to Analyse. Why? So what? Why was the SA a key reason Hitler came to power? So what effect did the Role of the king have in Mussolini becoming Prime Minister? Why is that important? Your analysis is key. For a personal example, In my most recent mocks, December 2016, I achieved full marks in my Tudor essays in terms of Knowledge (yay!) but barely any for analysis (*sad face*) resulting in 12/20 and 13/20 marks and an overall C grade – honestly, was shocked and upset. But now, I know the importance of analysis.
  4. Introduction and Conclusion. I originally wasn’t going to include this but a lot of people overlook the importance of both of these. These two paragraphs will set and complete your essay. Examiners will often predict and make those vital assumptions on how the rest of your essay will be based on your introduction. Frankly, if your intro sucks they will take that sucky feeling with them whilst reading the rest. I don’t want to scare you! I will write another posts specifically for introductions. But never overlook the intro. Same with the conclusion. In an exam where your judgement and analysis is very important, the conclusion, where you are summing up your judgement and analysis is the last thing the examiner will read before giving your mark. You want them to know your opinion, know your reasons and know WHY. Again, we will cover this in a later post. 

So, there are the four basics for a good essay. 

I think I will do posts for different types of A-Level essay questions so if you have a style that I don’t cover, drop a comment and I’ll hop right on it. 

I hope this helps, please leave a comment if you need any help. 

Thanks guys, have a great day!

HistoryA2 xx