How can I best prepare for a politics essay-based exam?

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The first step that I always took when preparing for an essay exam was to make sure that I understood exactly what type of questions there would be, and how many of each, so that firstly I knew what I was preparing for throughout the revision process, and I could also develop a plan of attack for the actual exam. In my A-level, there were three 15 mark questions and one 45 marker, and I would strongly advise that if you have both longer and shorter essays to write that you always start with a shorter one to act as a warm-up. The second and probably more obvious but very important point with essay exams is that it's vital to stick to time.

It's also crucial when you know what type of essays you'll be writing to ensure that you know a general structure that works for you for each type, as this will lessen the thinking process that you need to do once in the exam, and will help to calm nerves.

Regarding actually learning content, I found that I spent a small proportion of my time collecting my notes together, and probably read over them once to familiarise myself with the content, and then I spent most of my revision time planning both the 15 and 45 mark essays using questions that had already come up, and a combination of ones I created myeslf and that my teacher had suggested could come up. This requires a lot of time, but if you start early enough it can mean that you walk into the exam with virtually all of the essays that you will answer planned, and the process of thinking about the essay plans is really effective for both learning content and practicing the skill of planning, should you need to do so in the exam.

If, understandably, you feel that planning so many essays would be a waste of time because learning them wouldn't be efficient, an adaptation of this method which probably works just as well is to take each topic for politics, (for example one of mine at A2 was Global Governance) and determine what the areas are that could be individually questioned. Once you've determined these, I would then make mind-maps with branches representing possible paragraphs that would come up in an essay. Then practise planning an essay and see if the potential 'paragraphs' you've come up with are suitable. Because this process of sorting facts requires you to think about them, again this will help with memorisation.

Sophie A.

About the author

is an online A Level Politics tutor with MyTutor studying at Oxford, Balliol College University

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