Planning your essay
The quality of your essay will be directly proportionate to the quality of your plan. Those few minutes you spend formulating a clear, well thought out and logical plan will save you time a lot of time when writing your essay and ensure that you are answering the question set.
When planning your essay you should focus on four things:
- The question
- The context of the question
- The main factors in relation to your question
- The conclusion of your argument
You should use an A4 piece of paper to plan the question something like this:
1. The question
Understanding the question is the most important factor in writing a 20 mark essay. In your plan you have to ensure that you are fully aware of what the question is actually asking you to do. By breaking down the question at the planning stage you are ensuring that you are taking the correct approach to answering it. There is really no room for mistake when you only have 40 minutes in the exam to answer each of your 2 essay questions.
If we take the question:
This question is asking you to do three things:
- Explain the importance of the use of new technology as a reason for Allied victory
- Explain the importance of other reasons for the Allied victory
- Make a judgment on the importance of the use of new technology as a reason for Allied victory.
2. The context
By placing the question in context you are showing the marker that you have knowledge and awareness of the historical period that you are studying.
When placing a question in context it helps if you think of the marker as an alien (and some probably are!) who is visiting planet earth for the first time and has no knowledge of any event, development or issue in the history of human civilisation. Therefore you need to give a bit of background knowledge in your introduction that puts the question in its historical background or explains some of the terms of the question.
There are a number of ways that you could set the wider context for the above question:
- By describing overall the course and outcome of the First World War
- By describing the causes of the war
- By explaining the importance of new technology in warfare today and in the past
3. The main factors
By identifying the main factors involved in answering the question this will give you an overview of how you are going to develop the essay. The main factors for our question are:
- New technology, you would tackle this first as it is the factor identified in the question
- The entry of the USA into the war
- The Allied Naval Blockade
- The collapse of Germany’s Allies
- The collapse of the German Home Front
4. The conclusion
Finally, you should identify the overall judgment that you are going to make from your argument. For example:
New technology was vitally important in the victory because of the battlefield superiority it gave the allies.
The entry of America made it inevitable that the Allies would be victorious because of the wealth of money, materials and men.
Whatever the evidence in your argument leads you to believe was the most important reason for Allied Victory.
This short plan will ensure that you are answering the question fully. The process of planning will ensure that you are focused on the question before you begin to write your essay. Essay planning is also a skill and you will get better and quicker at it. You should be aiming to complete the plan in less than five minutes in the exam.
Your finished plan for writing this essay would look something like this:
Here are some examples of plans that can be used when writing an essay on the subject of 20th Century European history:
1. Why did The Treaty of Versailles lack durability?
2. How important was the appeal of Fascism in the rise to power of Mussolini?
3. What was the Italian attitude to German expansion in 1930s?
4. How far did the aims of Mussolini’s foreign policy change from 1922 to 1940?
5. Why did the Nationalists win the Spanish Civil War?
6. What were the causes of the Spanish Civil War?
7. What were the policies of the Big Powers towards the Spanish Civil War?
8. How successful was the German Weimar Republic in Foreign Policy?
9. How successful were the Nazis in achieving the aims of their social policies?
10. Examine the Nature of Weimar Germany’s Economic Problems
11. Did the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand make a general European war inevitable?
12. How significant were the Moroccan Crises of 1905 and 1911?