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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.see more
With source work, it is very important to read both the question and the source very carefully, and to make sure you answer the question!
The first step to an answer should be to read the source with the question in mind, and determine exactly what parts of the source are relevant, and what impression it gives you about the answer to the question. When you then write your answer, a good thing to keep in mind is to only use quotes from the source as direct evidence for your points. Don't lead with them, or use quotes that are too long, because this will come across as you regurgitating the source and will imply that you didn't fully understand it. It is better to be explicit about what point you're making, and show this by only referencing the parts of the source that are directly relevant to your argument.
The way to get good marks in a source response is to think more deeply about what the source implies. For example, if a source describes a person's actions, think about what this implies their motivations were. Finally, a good think to think about is who created the source (e.g. who wrote/drew it) and what this suggests about the purpose of the source. A piece of propaganda might present a highly positive account of events, but this source should be seen as potentially unreliable given the purpose of propaganda to motivate and manipulate people. Therefore, you can make your points as normal, but then add at the end of your argument that these inferences might not be reliable. Alternatively, if the source was from a textbook, you could say that it is likely to be accurate.
These comments aren't necessary but if you can easily tell that the source has a purpose which is relevant to how reliable it is, it is worth mentioning it!see more
The essay section of the TSA is really nothing to worry about, as the tutors should only use it as a possibly entry point for questioning in your interview, and it is not numerically marked. You should just aim to demonstrate your reasoning process and that you can present a balanced yet guided argument.
Your first step when answering the type of questions that come up in the TSA should be to carefully consider what your answer would be if you were forced to give one in a 'yes/no/maybe' format, as having a clear idea of what the general arguement is straight away will ensure that all of your essay is both answering the question and coherent. When it comes to Oxford essays, you're always better off to spend an extra 2 minutes thinking rather than writing, and a good tactic for impressing with your TSA essay is to present a clever and unique argument, rather than panic write.
If you answer maybe, make sure that the body of the essay doesn't come across as non-commital, and that there are valid reasons as to why a yes/no answer cannot be given. An obvious such reason would be that contextual factors greatly affect the answer to the question.
Most importantly, make sure that your essay is coherent and that there is some logic to the flow of your paragraphs. It will be more impressive if your essay reads as if you had the same plan and argument in mind throughout.see more