How should I tackle an essay question to receive top marks?

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Essay questions are a very tough, but very common section of any A-Level exam. 

My first tip is to look at the question as a broad outline, so if the question is along the lines of "to what extent did A bring about B in the period of C?" You need to tackle it step by step. 

What is this question saying? "To what extent". This is a comparable answer. It is inviting you to answer the question directly by looking at A, but also to look at other factors in order to show the extent of A in terms of causing B. 

If A, Y and Z are your causes of B then you are using each of those to show the effectiveness of the other, by comparing. If Z is the factor which had the biggest impact then Z is your argument. A and Y are to show other perspectives but you put them in comparison to highlight YOUR argument.

Next you need a clear structure to your answer. There are 2 strong ways to structure an essay. 

1. Chronological (taking eachevent/factor in order by date)

2. Thematic (dividing the sections into themes such as economic, political or whatever your question invites)

For top marks, a student shall identify the question and answer thematically as it allows to cover more information and provide a clear and sought after analysis. 

Finally, you need the essay to flow. If you present a load of facts and analysis in a blob on the page, it might be developed and correct but what pattern does it follow. 

You must follow each paragraph together to show that your argument is a flowing piece of work. It shows the examiner you have a clear mind and know what you are arguing. 

Try and use tricks such as linking words to show counter-arguments to nab a few extra likes from the examiner. 

Liam P. A Level History tutor, GCSE Italian tutor, GCSE History tutor

About the author

is an online A Level History tutor with MyTutor studying at Southampton University

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