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Structure and planning of essay

Watch this to find out how to structure the perfect essay for Higher Modern Studies (and how to climb the Matterhorn)

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There is a huge mountain that sits above the town of Zermat in Switzerland called the Matterhorn. It is breathtaking.

When most mountains in Europe had been climbed, this one stood unconquered. An international competition was launched for the first to the summit and when this challenge was finally overcome, four of the party of seven who had achieved it fell to their deaths trying to get back down.

Nowadays, about 150 climbers each year get to the top. Some routes to the summit are still regarded as impossible -completely unclimbable; but there are many different routes to choose from, some much safer than others and the route a climber selects is vital to their success.

When you are writing an essay in Modern Studies, just like climbing the Matterhorn, you have to pick the right route. Some routes are safer and will get you to the top. Some routes are more complicated and can lead to trouble.

I want to tell you about the route I use when teaching essays to my class, one that can help you get to the top.

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There are two types of essay; I call the 12 mark essays an extended response, because they don’t have an introduction or conclusion, and are more like a long Nat 5 answer. 20 Mark essays, though, are our Matterhorn, and you are only ready to tackle them when you have enough knowledge and training.
Like an ascent up a mountain, planning is key. You can’t just start, or you’ll quickly lose your way. You need to know where you are going and that means knowing the answer to your 20 mark essay before you start.
Your introduction will lay out the factors that you are going to be discussing, like a plan on the page, but it’s what you do with those factors, in each section of your essay, that really counts. With 8 knowledge marks, and 6 analysis marks up for grabs, I recommend 4 main sections to my classes, each dealing with a different factor.

Take an essay like “to what extent does social and economic inequality exist in the US?” You have a range of options with an essay like this, but you can make a strong case for four main sections focusing on income, health, education and the criminal justice system.
Across these four factors you have to do a range of things. You need to make points of knowledge which answer the question, you need to delve into the detail of that and really hammer home the point that you are making. You need to back that up with some evidence, and you need to analyse how that fits with your overall answer.
40sec -1min section

This gives us a rough structure that I call PEEA, Point, Explain, Example, Analyse. For a 12 mark extended response, I would tell you to PEEA for each factor, but in a 20 mark essay it is different, you have to go further to open up the full range of marks on offer. Here, I tell pupils to PEEAPEEA, basically to come up with a second point for each factor. In an essay on inequalities you can easily do this, for example, by doing one education paragraph on high school dropouts by ethnicity, and a second on access to College. In other essays the second PEEA is the counter-argument or balance to the first, such as saying that social class has an impact on voting behaviour, but following that up with a counter-point about partisan dealignment in recent years.
The one drawback with this is how long it takes to write, so I suggest that pupils use PEEAPEEA for three factors, and a simple PEEA for the last, but you can get away with two PEEAPEEAs and two simple PEEAs if you really find the clock a challenge.

So remember, whether it’s a trip up the Matterhorn in Switzerland or writing an essay in Modern Studies, planning is key. Know your route before you set off as some are difficult and will get you into difficulty whilst others are more straight forward.

Tackling a 20 mark essay isn’t the same as conquering the unconquerable, but if you follow these steps and take full marks, you’ll feel like you’re on the top of the world.

This was thinkfour, thanks for watching.