March 9, 2024 / by Madeleine

AQA Philosophy essays: How to nail a 25 mark essay

These essays are fiendish and it is no secret that this is where most AQA Philosophy A Level students drop the most marks. You have about 50 minutes, just over an hour if you are a student with extra time, to show your knowledge of an entire chapter.

Where to begin?

If you look at the top mark band, it states you need to:

  • Argue with ‘intent’, maintained throughout with logical consistency i.e. tell us what you are arguing from the first sentence, keep referring back to it and conclude the same way.
  • Write in detail and precisely
  • Use only arguments in their strongest forms
  • Balance arguments and coutner arguments but always make a judgement, in the end, of which side wins.
  • Rank your arguments in terms of strength and weakness
  • Say which argument is most crucial to (i.e. best supports) your conclusion.

To tick off these aspects of the mark scheme, I recommend the following framework..

  1. Write a very strong Introduction: State your argument by saying exactly how you will answer the question. Define the main theory or argument it concerns. Say which philosophers you are then against and which support your view. Say which arguments you think are the strongest/most crucial for your conclusion and WHY. Say which arguments you think are the weakest and WHY. Then remind us of your conclusion, linking it to those strongest arguments.

2. Make the positive case for your opponent: also known as the principle of charity. Here, you should define the theory as if it is a 3 mark question. Tell us who believes in it and why. Whatever theory you are against, make the case FOR it first before you smash it down! Give the strongest couple of arguments for the theory, each time as if it is a 5 mark question.

3. Next paragraph: Now turn to the theory you are defending, starting by defining it as if it is a 3 mark question. Tell us who believes in it and why.

4. Now, proceed argument by argument, Give the arguments each time as if 5 mark question, followed by reasons to support, followed by coutner arguments, followed by possible responses back to them. Each time make a reasoned judgement i.e. give a reason to support how strong or weak you think the argument is. At the end of each mini-debate paragraph, reach a mini-conclusion and LINK BACK to your argument: why does theory X fail? / theory Y succeed?

5. Repeat the above three or four times.

6. Conclusion: Summarise the debate, remind us of your argument. Remind us of the strongest arguments for it and which were weakest.End on the most crucial argument towards your conclusion.

There are basically two ways to do these steps: the POSITIVE CASE or the NEGATIVE case.

For the positive case, defending the theory that is named in the question, you should present its opposite theory positively, present the theory itself, then go through the strongest arguments against the theory and show how it can adequately answer all of them. Start with the weakest and work up to the strongest so you build your case increasingly.

For the negative case, rejecting the theory that is named in the question, you should present it in a positive light first, then its opposite theory or the position you are defending (for example you can reject JTB and say none of the responses work either, but knowledge is indefinable in the kind of way Locke/Zagzebski suggested, because it is not a natural kind). then, go one by one through arguments against the theory and show how that theory cannot adequately respond to any of them.

GOOD LUCK and if you want essay feedback, just pick a slot to book a meeting or email for offline feedback.