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I realise this page is a bit late in the day as the exam system changes for AS in June 2009, but as various people keep asking for my ideas on exam technique, I thought I should post some in a permenant setting. When the new system comes in, I'll add in my ideas about that.

If you're doing Edexcel AS Units 1 and 2 then:

a(5 Mark) questions. Write it like a dictionary definition. 60 -100 words. Include an example and take maximum 5 minutes.

b(15 Mark) questions. Normally three points need to be made - so give each one a paragraph. Normally outlining which points you're going to cover in a very brief introduction also covers your bases if you run out of time. Take 10 minutes max.

c(30 Mark) questions. These are the core of the AS exam - never attempt a question unless you can answer the c) part. Also if time is a problem, delay part b) in order to adequately cover c).
How To: Read the question carefully - is it one-sided or does it ask for both sides of the argument? Use your introduction to make it clear what you're about to do and some basic points you're going to raise. Give each point its own paragraph. Often you can use points from part b) and even rewrite the same words. (If you saw my advice on putting b) last, then do this in reverse.) Use a brief conclusion to wrap it up (there are 5 marks for clarity of writing) and take about 17- 18 minutes.

Before doing either Unit 1 or 2, I recommend you make 'essay plans' of your main points. Once in the exam room, choose the questions that work best for you and then quickly jot down your plans from your revision on a piece of scrap paper. (This will free your mind to concentrate on just presenting the info.)


How to answer Unit 3 Questions:

First of all, according to Edexcel this is the AS that students do best on. The main reason, I believe, is that there is plenty of time compared to Units 1 and 2. Another factor is that you have what is Source in all but name. It jogs your memory (or for some of you who dozed through your final weeks of class it gives you some new ideas.) However, you will have just sprinted through Units 1 and 2, so your mind and your writing hand will be tiring.

There are four sub questions to answer a) (5 marks) b) (10) c) (15) and d (20). Grand total is 50 marks (x2 to give a percentage.)

a) This based purely on the text/source. You have to identify (probably) three points raised by the text and quote them.

Here’s an example with a mark scheme:
(a) Using the source, what evidence is there that Britain still has a two-party system? (5)

In the 2001 general election, the main political parties gained three quarters of votes and 88% of seats. There was electoral stability similar to that of the 1950s and 1960s. Relatively few seats changed hands in this election and there was a very small electoral swing.

(4-5) should clearly explain three main features of Britain’s two-party system.
(2-3) should show an awareness of at least two features of the two-party system.
(0-1) will either identify one factor or will make little use of the source material.

You need about 5-6 lines and should try to knock this out in 5 minutes. Underlining the text is really helpful in this question.

b) This based on the text/source and your own knowledge. A 50 – 50 mix is good, a pure one or the other won’t get you full marks. You need to have at least elements of both. Personally I think you should try one of the following approaches:
i) Pick out three features of the text but you give your own explanation of why each is important.
ii) Pick out 1 or 2 features of the text with its explanation, and add in the remainder using your own knowledge.

Take about 10 minutes on this and give it about 15 lines (about half a side.)
Here’s an example with a mark scheme:

(b) Usin