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10 mark essay guide

IB Essay writing – 10 Mark Questions
Look carefully at the essay title and carry out the following:
Use the L.I.S.T. checklist below to ensure that you give the essay title its broadest interpretation:
L – LOCATION (spatial context): poor/rich countries; rural/urban areas;
tropical/temperate; land/air/sea; marine/terrestrial/atmospheric
I – ISSUES (factors): positive/negative, advantages/disadvantages, costs/benefits,
human/physical, environmental, social, cultural, demographic, political,
economic, geographic
S – SCALE: global, regional, international, national, sub-national, local
T – TIME: long-term/medium-term/short-term; past/present/future; contemporary/recent/current
A good introduction must be brief and include the following 3 elements:
Define the key words of the title (e.g. "globalization", "physical water scarcity",
Formulate the question: use or rephrase the essay title, suggest possible sub-questions
which may be relevant to the essay
Main essay content
Announce the structure/plan that will be used to answer the question: however do NOT
"conclude" by giving away your key arguments in the introduction. Rather, indicate the
path you'll follow (e.g. "we will first examine this aspect, then evaluate this this aspect,
and finally look into this aspect"). Don't be afraid to mention the relevant 4P's & SDG's and
underline them too to draw attention to the
You should use the PEEL structure in your writing
P – Point (I also call this a sign post sentence or SPS) This should tell the examiner what the
paragraph is going to be about.
E E – Explanation and Evidence. You should link your writing to a place or an example and
then discuss the significance of it. You need to demonstrate knowledge and understanding
here and link to the LIST points above.
L – Link – at the end of each paragraph you should refer back to the essay question. This
shows the examiner that you are on track and keeping your essay focused.
You should aim to have 3-4 paragraphs in an essay and always look for the command word
as this will tell you if you need a counter argument. Always try to go beyond the essay by
discussing the complexity of the issue.
All essays should have a conclusion that sums up the main points of the essay. Conclusions
give you the opportunity to evaluate (AO3) and say which argument is best using evidence
from your essay. They should be no more then 7-8 lines. Do not introduce new ideas to
the conclusion.
List of command terms:
Questions which begin with a command term in green (AO1) are descriptive and worth few marks in exams:
more time should always be devoted to questions which begin with command terms in blue (AO2) or red
(A03) which are more analytical and are usually worth more marks on exams papers.
(AO2): Break down in order to bring out the essential
elements or structure
(A02) Arrange or order by class or category
(AO3): Give an account of the similarities between two
(or more) items or situations, referring to both (all) of
them throughout
Compare and contrast
(AO3): Give an account of similarities and differences
between two (or more) items or situations, referring to
both (all) of them throughout
(AO3): Give an account of the differences between two
(or more) items or situations, referring to both (all) of
them throughout
(AO1): Give the precise meaning of a word, phrase,
concept or physical quantity
(AO1): Give a detailed account
(AO1): Obtain the only possible answer
(AO3): Offer a considered and balanced review that
includes a range of arguments, factors or hypotheses.
Opinions or conclusions should be presented clearly and
supported by appropriate evidence
(AO2): Make clear the differences between two or more
concepts or items
(AO3): Make an appraisal by weighing up the strengths
and limitations
(AO3): Consider an argument or concept in a way that
uncovers the assumptions and interrelationships of the
(AO2): Give a detailed account including reasons or
(AO1): Provide an answer from a number of possibilities
(AO1): Give a brief account or summary
(AO1): Give a specific name, value or other brief answer
without explanation or calculation
To what extent
(AO3): Consider the merits or otherwise of an argument
or concept. Opinions and conclusions should be
presented clearly and supported with empirical
evidence and sound argument