Exams can be a stressful and nerve-wracking experience, especially when it comes to essay questions. As a student taking A-Level Geography, you may be feeling the pressure of writing a well-structured and thought-out essay for your exams. After all, they’re worth a lot of marks. However, don’t worry! With the right approach and preparation, you can easily tackle essay questions with confidence. Here is my method of approaching any A-Level essay question…
1. Read the question thoroughly!
You’ll have heard this time and time again from your teachers but this cannot be stressed enough! It’s important to read the question carefully and make sure you understand it. Take a few moments to think about what the question is asking and what points you should cover. Highlight keywords or phrases that will help you focus your answer.
Follow along with how I have highlighted this example question.
In this example, I have highlighted the key terms of the question. I want to figure out exactly what the examiner will be looking for and how I can be in with a chance of gaining all of the marks.
Within a few words, I know that the examiner is looking for my answer to be backed up by my case study material and I MUST reference it to get marks.
EVALUATE – means that in my answer I should be weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of the key terms and my answer should have a conclusion of if the management is beneficial or needs improvement.
If you know you will not have time to finish your answer to an ‘evaluate’ question it is important that you skip straight to the conclusion – no matter how short it will be. The examiner is looking for a conclusion in these answers regardless of the rest of the content and so you will gain marks even if it is not your best work!
Finally, I have highlighted the key information that I am being asked for. The question wants me to discuss both the PREPARATION and RESPONSE and so I need to include both in order to get a high mark for the answer. This question is only looking at the management of VOLCANIC activity. By reading the question carefully I am ensuring I do not waste precious time talking about unnecessary ideas.
2. Quickly plan your essay out.
Once you’ve read the question, take a minute to brainstorm some ideas. Make sure to jot down any relevant information, facts, and figures that you definitely want to use in your essay. This will help you to get your thoughts in order and make writing your essay a lot easier.
Make it clear on your exam paper what you do not want to be marked! If you have scribbled a quick plan on your page be sure to go back through and put a big X through it and write in capital letters – PLAN.
You really do not want to waste too much time on this as the allotted time for the paper is tight enough! A quick outline of a few statistics that you have in your head and do not want to forget along with what you have highlighted in the question should be enough to see you through!
3. Don’t forget to use evidence in Geography essays.
When writing an essay for A-level Geography, it’s important to back up your points with evidence. This evidence comes from your case study material and the resources given to you in the exam paper. You should ideally know your case studies inside out before your exam and if you struggle to remember everything then choose the shorter facts to memorise! Make sure to give as many facts, figures, or statistics as you can in your essay. This will help to demonstrate your understanding of the subject and support your arguments.
4. Proofread your Geography essay – if you have time!
Once you’ve finished writing your essay, take a few minutes to proofread it. You should only look back at what you have written after you have finished all of the other questions. Check for any spelling or grammatical errors and make sure that your points are clearly laid out. This will help you to present your best work and ensure that you get the marks you deserve.
Don’t worry if it’s messy! If you want to add more information that you think will genuinely gain more marks, don’t be scared to mark asterisks and carry on at the end of the essay or use arrows with more information at the side. Geography is one of the few A-Levels which is still marked in person, on paper and is not scanned in so you can afford a little bit of untidiness.
If you find that the stress of the exam is having an impact on your writing skills it’s important to try and fix it as soon as possible. Essays can be daunting, but continued practice will help you to improve your speed. You’ll also begin to grasp what the examiner wants to see in your answer and know which parts aren’t necessary.
Here is a post you may find useful on exam stress:
To sum up…
By following these steps, you can approach essay questions in A-Level Geography exams with confidence. With the right preparation and practice, you can easily write an essay that will impress the examiners and help you to get the grade you want. Good luck!