Essays with Commentaries
Richard Hughes lends us the benefit of his expertise.
While the two short essays (with comments) which follow are based specifically on the requirements needed for Edexcel AS Unit 2, they do illustrate issues applicable to all structured history essays.
A structured essay always requires a candidate to make maximum use of the limited length of time provided. Anyone who strays into unnecessary diversion is likely to lose marks. The first essay tests descriptive skills and has a maximum mark of 20; the second essay places the focus on causation and has a maximum mark of 40. With (a), the descriptive question, the top level of marks is awarded to candidates able to establish explicit links to the question. In other words, the relevance of the points raised must be made obvious to the examiner. The same applies to (b) where, in addition, a high-achieving candidate will be expected to display integration – how the causal points link together with some sort of overview being offered. It is important with all questions to adhere to the assessment objectives – less prepared candidates all too often mix them up and so emphasise causal links in (a) and not (b), and descriptions in (b) and not (a). This will inevitably mean the examiner has to reward such students with the lowest bands.