OCR A Level – Basics of planning and writing an essay (A2)

The essay timings provided here are for students sitting the A2 exams. The planning and structure can remain largely the same for AS students but the weighting of AO1 and AO2 changes from 50/50 at AS, to 60 (AO2)/ 40 (AO1) at A2.

5 steps towards planning your answer

  1. Interpret the question – What exactly is being asked of you?
  2. Choose your main points to argue throughout the question
  3. Choose scholars/ examples/ quotes you want to use to make those points
  4. Choose the best order to present and argue your points
  5. Any critical analysis (strengths and weaknesses of the arguments) you have for the points being made.

How much should you be writing and how should you write it?

With roughly 35 minutes (5 minutes planning) to write your answer you want to avoid overloading the essay question with too many points at the risk of superficially presenting your arguments. I therefore recommend you use 2 points on both sides of the argument, meaning your answer will comprise of:

  1. Introduction
  2. Argument supporting the statement (1)
  3. Argument against the statement (1)
  4. Argument supporting the statement (2)
  5. Argument against the statement (2)
  6. Conclusion

This could start with the argument against the statement rather than supporting.

Why this style?

There are other methods of presenting the arguments such as having separate sections for arguments “for” and then “against”, rather than the “Ping-Pong” style demonstrated above. However, with so much emphasis on AO2, particularly when reaching A2, I would recommend the “Ping-Pong” approach.

The reasoning for this is it allows you to get into the evaluation and critical analysis early on in the essay. It could also help you form a logical thread throughout the essay with carefully chosen counter arguments directly following the original point made.

Furthermore, this method could be essential for a candidate who might run out of time on the last question. By taking this approach they have at least engaged in some level of discussion.

If they were to present only one side of the argument and run out of time, they have missed out on huge amounts of possible marks.

This technique will require a bit more thought while planning to ensure you have the best logical progression, but if done properly, could give your essay a little more flair than just presenting the information in two clear sections. 

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