How to correctly answer "To what extent" questions?

The most significant difference between GCSE and A-level history is the amount of emphasis markers place on analysis, interpretation and evaluation. For example, if we use the question “To what extent was the treaty of Versailles responsible for World War II?”, not only do we have to know the major causes of World War II but, to receive top marks, we have to evaluate their importance in relation to each other and explain our reasoning pertaining to our decision. Using our sample question, one must analyse the role the Treaty of Versailles played in causing World War II and then evaluate it against two or three other factors involved (e.g. the failure of the League of Nations and the rise of Adolf Hitler). Once you have decided if the Treaty of Versailles was responsible, you then must evaluate if it was more or less responsible for causing World War II than the failure of the League of Nations or the rise of Adolf Hitler. There is no ‘right’ answer but, all arguments must be validated by facts, dates and statistics. For example, one could argue the Treaty of Versailles was not that responsible for World War II as a strong League of Nations could have still prevented this however, one could equally argue the Treaty of Versailles is what fostered the discontent in Germany that propelled Hitler into power and is therefor very responsible. There are many different ways to structure your answer however, there are a few key points to do this effectively. The introduction should include all your points and what you think is the most important, the main body of your essay should include paragraphs that focus around each point utilising facts and dates to argue your position and the conclusion should summarise your argument. Factors tend to be interlinked and exploring these links is great for evaluation and can turn a good essay into a great one.

Answered by Colm H. History tutor


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