Answering Structured Questions

As we enter the new dispensation, wherein AS and A2 equals an A Level, Graham D. Goodlad gives some timely and pertinent advice.

One of the most common criticisms of the old A-Level History examination was that it placed too heavy an emphasis on essay writing. The new AS and A Level specifications address this problem by making greater use of ‘structured’ or ‘stepped’ questions. In appearance they resemble the kind of questions with which you will have become familiar at GCSE. Remember, however, that the standard expected at AS will be pitched midway between GCSE and the full A Level. The exact format of the questions will vary from one examining body to another, but there are broad similarities in the requirements of all the boards.

It is important to be aware of the weighting of the various parts of a stepped question. Some parts may be answered in a short paragraph; others will require a more extended discussion. If you want to score good marks, you have to be disciplined in your approach: the mark scheme must be your guide in deciding how much time to allocate to a particular sub-question.

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