A-Levels represent a substantial leap from GCSEs in terms of the standard of work which is required. They are designed to prepare students for university, where original research and writing is required. As such, the first essays and coursework submissions can be daunting. The following tips have come from experience and, although they seem simple, utilising them is guaranteed to make the process easier.
Read the Question. It sounds obvious, but reading the question carefully is the first, and most important, rule of writing any A-Level essay or piece of coursework. The answer should be clearly stated in the opening and closing sentences to the written work, reflecting the wording of the question as far as possible. This demonstrates to the examiner that the question has been understood and carefully considered before answering. It also prevents the author from answering a question which they would have preferred, which will result in lost marks.
Structure Opinions. A-Levels require students to provide a structured opinion. This means that there has to be evidence to support the argument being made. It can also include evidence of discounted arguments to demonstrate that a range of options have been considered, and one favoured over another, for a justifiable reason.
Look for additional sources. Demonstrating that the answer has utilised more than the obligatory reading and an Internet search will almost certainly gain additional marks. Therefore, correctly referencing sources becomes crucial to provide evidence of the additional work undertaken.
Making key points clear. A golden rule is: “tell them what you are going to say; tell them; then tell them what you said.” Whilst it may sound excessive, it is a very good rule to stick to as it forces the author to write clearly and concisely, which gains marks and saves time, particularly under examination conditions. It also ensures that the question is understood and answered fully.
An easy way to achieve this is by including an introduction and conclusion which broadly mirror each other. They should explain why your argument answers the question, whilst the rest of the essay or coursework should discuss why the evidence you have chosen supports it.
Finally, it is imperative to always re-read a piece of work before submitting it. Proof-reading is essential as it is extremely rare that anyone can produce a perfect essay or piece of coursework at the first attempt. It is also worth asking someone who has not studied the subject to read your submission, if possible. Examiners will look for the work to be clear enough that even a novice would understand the points being made and this is an excellent way to ensure that it meets that criteria.