A2 examinations:Developing your skills in extended writing Bob DigbyGeographical Association
Beware! Very good students often underachieve on essays. Most commonly they show excellent knowledge and understanding, in amazing depth, but fail to answer the question. Conversely a weak student who actually answers the question set, can do well. As there is little guidance, with no sub-parts (like AS), it’s easy to go wrong (or right).
Developing exam skills Command Words - • direct you towards an understanding of the title. • outline the approach to the question, and include words such as: • EXPLAIN • ASSESS • TO WHAT EXTENT • CONTRAST • are especially important in the introduction and conclusion. • should be used directly in the answer, to show they are answering the question.
Command words you need to know • Discuss • Assess ... • Assess the extent to which ... • How far can it be said that ... • To what extent do you agree ... • Evaluate ... • Justify • Explore • Describe ... • Explain ... • Account for ... • Compare ... • Contrast ... • Examine ... • Analyse ... • Consider ... • Comment on ...
Get to know the key words of the specification - hazards, tectonic, impact, predict, manage etc. These reflect the content that’s required. Usually the key words in the titles come straight from the syllabus - so see the exam board website and download a copy. Use the syllabus to make a list of key words and practice defining them. Use word games with others in your class - using flash cards etc. - to help learn what each set of key words means. Look at past papers to see which key words have been used in the past. In the exam, highlight both types of words at the start (key and command), and make sure ALL are used in the introduction. EXAM SKILLS COACHING IS CRUCIAL Now for Key Words
Consider the key words and command words for two hazards questions (Q3 & Q4) • Think of a few ideas about what a student would have to do to gain an A or B on Question 4 Q3 It is not the frequency of natural hazards that is increasing, but rather our awareness of them Q4 To what extent do you agree with the view that hazard prediction has done little to reduce the impact of hazards?
Tips for success 1 Plan! • Even if you never have before! • People who plan score better - they stay on track, don’t ramble, and don’t get mind blanks • It doesn’t have to be complex or to take long • It gets marked - so don’t cross it out!
Tips for success 2 Stick to essay organisation! Introduce the essay • define the terms, set out the context and outline your argument Set out the main body of the essay • Argue on both sides • Set out detailed knowledge and understanding • Organise your thoughts - points in favour of one argument followed by those against. Conclusion • Bring the essay to a conclusion; your answer to the question
Introduction Definition of key word: prediction Definition of key word: hazard Diagram to illustrate Extension of key word: prediction
Named examples of organisations involved Actions taken which relate to essay title and key word ‘prediction’ Specific and accurate data
Organise a structure • Case study research needs to be learnt as part of revision, but in the exam it needs to be APPLIED to the question. • Case study research gets you marks for knowledge. Applying it ALSO gets you marks for understanding and application • Use relevant models or theories to give your work structure, and on which to ‘hang’ case studies. • Bland descriptions without referring to the question score low.
Signal a change of emphasis; that you are going to look at places that do NOT fit what you have said so far And why this is the case
Tips for success 3: Keep up to date! • Using old source material and case studies. This is a growing problem, as many case studies are endlessly recycled despite their great age. Some old case studies include: • Bhopal, India (1984) • Chernobyl, USSR (1986) • Mt St Helen’s, USA (1980) • World Series earthquake, USA (1989) • Armenian earthquake, USSR (1988) However, you can update these if they are relevant - e.g. what lessons were learned from Mt St Helens which helped in managing Montserrat successfully.
“The Kobe earthquake in Taiwan in 1997 happened when the Pacific plate shoved into the Japanese plate. The shoving was caused by the plate floating on the mantle towards Japan. The shoving caused a big earthquake which led to lots of buildings and roads collapsing and killed a few thousand people in Kobe. The killings were made worse because emergency services didn’t get their quick enough and couldn’t get to places cos of the fires that started when the wooden buildings caught fire because they were made of wood and the stoves fell over and it was in the night. This shows a not very good response.” Incorrect location Poor on physical processes Lacks terminology e.g. ‘big’ Factual detail e.g. ‘lots of’ Spelling / language Punctuation? Tips for success 4: Language & Style
Tips for success 5:Know the mark scheme! • The best way to improve performance is to practice. • Get past essay titles, especially those of the topics likely to come up, and do these. • Get to know from past examiners’ reports what the mark scheme looks like • Some essays should be timed • Evaluate your own work - using something like this sheet > > > The 3 things that brought my mark down The 3 things that brought my mark up
Tips for success 6: use theories/models • Park’s response model • The Hazard Management Cycle
Analyse, don’t describe 1. Highlight all the key words / phrases in the question 2. Define these in the introduction. 3. Keep using these words when case studies are introduced, and when summarising and linking to the next case study in the main bit of the essay. 4. Use the words again in the conclusion. In this way, there will be a continued focus on the question, and not drift.
If asked to interpret a resource first, try to be analytical and questioning: Example: are hazardous natural events becoming more common? • What does the graph appear to show? • Look at the detail on types of hazard. What are the trends? • How might you explain this?
GENERAL UPWARD TREND Tectonic hazards are not upward Wind and Flood hazards rising Why? More ‘events’ ? Global warming? More vulnerable people? Better reporting?
Tips for success 7: Conclusion! Go back to the question with examples Signal the contrasts
Preparing for the exam • When you revise, look carefully at the Specification. Build up a glossary of key terms and definitions. • Brainstorm possible questions in class. Look at past questions and brainstorm how you could answer these. • You should also do at least one timed practice question. Many students run out of time and don’t get a decent conclusion in. • Prepare your models and theories; can you draw the Park model for instance, and adapt it to specific hazard examples? • Learn key facts and figures for case studies. Accuracy and detail will gain marks. Be especially carefully with dates and places, there’s nothing worse than starting out with ‘The Asian tsunami in the Pacific ocean in 2002 …..’ • Prepare some sketch maps – these are a simple, effective and impressive way of showing information. They should be used when a sketch is quicker than a text explanation.
And finally Good Luck!