How should I approach a question which asks me to assess a claim?

These questions are typical of the longer essay we find in philosophy papers. The way to write a good philosophy essay is to have a stance, an opinion, on the subject you are assessing, and then to argue for your stance throughout your essay. You will have been studying the pros and cons of particular claims and systems of thought, and this is the time to get down as many of these as you can. However, listing them is not enough -- this is not assessing.

So, to plan this answer, write up two quick lists for the pros and cons. Overall, you will agree with one list over the other. Let's say you agree with the 'pro' list. So, draw some arrows between the points in the lists, or number the points, to show the order that you will talk about them in. This should show how they relate to one another, so that in your answer you can give a point from the con list, then counter it with a point from the pro list.

The assessing is what gets you the top marks, so these relations are really important. Your answer's structure will be based on all of this: your introduction will state your stance, an then each paragraph will go on to support it, by arguing for the relations you have identified. A good way to start is to make a claim for your own argument, offer a counter to yourself from the other list, but then counter that again to end the paragraph on your stance again. The way you start a paragraph may come either list but it is very important that each one ends with something from your stance, your list of choice, so that a reader can see throughout that this is what you are arguing for.

It is also very important to not just say that 'claim x is countered by claim y' but to explain why the counterclaim works to perform the refutation. This, really, is the assessing. 

So, key points to remember:

Have a stance.

Plan your answer (even briefly).

End each paragraph showing that it adds to your argument/your stance.

Explain why your points refute the other points.

Oliver W. A Level Philosophy tutor, A Level English tutor, A Level En...

8 months ago

Answered by Oliver, an A Level Philosophy tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


Xita R. IB Spanish tutor, GCSE Spanish tutor, 13 plus  Spanish tutor,...
View profile
£20 /hr

Xita R.

Degree: Philosophy and English literature (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, Spanish+ 3 more

Philosophy and Ethics
English Literature
-Personal Statements-

“About me: Hi there! I’m from Barcelona, but I’ve been raised in different cities in Spain, in the United States and Italy. This is probably why I’m quite friendly and curious to learn about what I don’t know, and keen to share what ...”

Sam O. A Level Religious Studies tutor, GCSE Religious Studies tutor,...
View profile
£20 /hr

Sam O.

Degree: Theology and Religion (Bachelors) - Oxford, Worcester College University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, Religious Studies+ 2 more

Religious Studies
Philosophy and Ethics

“A bit about me...I'm Sam and I study Theology and Religion at Worcester College and the University of Oxford. I'm friendly and outgoing with alove for learning and sharing knowledge, as well as experience in running revision sessio...”

MyTutor guarantee

PremiumTom J. A Level Economics tutor, IB Economics tutor, GCSE Economics tu...
View profile
£24 /hr

Tom J.

Degree: MSc Ecological Economics (Masters) - Edinburgh University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, Maths+ 2 more


“I have fostered a passion for teaching ever since taking the opportunity to travel to China and teach at an English language school for Chinese pupils.  This experience not only massively broadened my horizons culturally, but also gav...”

About the author

Oliver W. A Level Philosophy tutor, A Level English tutor, A Level En...
View profile
£20 /hr

Oliver W.

Degree: Philosophy (Bachelors) - Warwick University

Subjects offered: Philosophy, English Literature+ 2 more

English Literature
English Language

“About Me: Hi! My name is Oli. I’m a current undergraduate studying Philosophy at the University of Warwick. My life is a concoction of academic interests, but language, literature and their philosophical applications are at the forefr...”

You may also like...

Posts by Oliver

How do contextual factors affect language use?

How do I write a good 'How far do you agree' essay answer?

How should I approach a question which asks me to assess a claim?

What is the difference between what is presented and how it is presented?

Other A Level Philosophy questions

What is the logical problem of evil?

To what extent (if any) do your preconceived ideas affect what you see? Is this a problem for foundationalism?

Explain and illustrate two reasons for holding the view that at birth the mind is a tabula rasa (blank slate). [15 marks]

Critically Analyse Anselm’s First Ontological Argument

View A Level Philosophy tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss