How do I structure an A-Level history essay?

The most important thing about structuring any essay is knowing what you think about the question!  Before you work on the specifics of what goes in which paragraph, try to think of a short, one- or two-sentence answer to the question you've been asked. This is your overall argument. Keeping this in mind as you write will keep you from waffling and make your structure much more focussed.

In terms of the structure of the paragraphs, there are several ways you could do this. Some people like to split their essays into themes or topics (so if you were, say, evaluating why Germany lost World War II, you might want to split it into sections like international relations, economics, military technology, domestic morale).

Another good way is to organise your essay by argument. You will have done this before in simple “for-and-against” essays, where you argue two sides of the question and then conclude. For A-level you need to make this a little more sophisticated- if you can, bring in other historians’ opinions. For example, a really good essay structure is to explain why a particular historian or group of historians think a certain way, explain how these views could be challenged, and then put forward your own opinion on the issue. This structure has the advantage of keeping you focussed on the question rather than adding in unnecessary description, and evidence of independent thought and knowledge of historians’ views should pull you up into the higher grade boundaries

Both structures are equally valid: you will find that certain questions and your own writing style might lend themselves to one or the other approach. Whichever you choose, the important thing is to keep things clear and simple: focus your paragraphs with a Point Evidence Explain approach (or something similar) and remember that every piece of information you put in has to be relevant to answering the question.

Francesca M. GCSE History tutor, A Level History tutor, GCSE Latin tu...

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