March 6, 2024 / by Madeleine

How to nail a 12 mark question in AQA Philosophy

With a 12 marker there is a strict formula. They are only testing you on AO1 – showing what you know. You should NOT give any response or criticism of your own, or any that is not specified in the given question. No evaluation. Just strictly the theory, or argument + the criticism and how it attacks the theory/argument.

It should contain at least 4 paragraphs, amounting to about 1.5 pages of writing by hand. This is something a lot of students don’t realise, and they drop marks because they haven’t written enough, or they haven’t covered all of the bases.

  1. The 1st paragraph or two covers the first half of the Q (e.g., ‘Explain God’s omniscience’). you should treat it like a well-explained 5 marker. Lay out the argument, perhaps in standard form so with numbered premises on different lines, and summarise it in a few sentences. If the first half of the question refers to a theory rather than an argument, then treat it as a 3 mark turned into a 5-mark question i.e. define the theory, and explain its different aspects in more depth. You can offer a positive argument for the theory e.g. Aristotle’s function argument for his ethics but do not, I repeat, do not, evaluate it.
  2. Now cover the 2nd half of the Q – e.g., ‘…and explain the criticism that free will undermines it’ – and also treat it like a well-explained 5 marker, as above.
  3. Your 3rd section is ‘integration’ – which means bringing the whole question together by identifying and explaining how the second part of the Q criticises the first part. e.g. How does free will undermine God’s omniscience? This is why using standard form arguments is so useful, because you can point to the specific numbered premise which is being attacked and explain how so. Integration is essential to scoring highly here. You cannot get above 6/12 marks unless you include at least some integration.
  4. Last, you give a conclusion, but it is NOT your own conclusion. Rather, you tie up all the loose ends and take the last logical steps of this criticism. What is the state of play, supposing that the criticism succeeds? E.g. Free will undermines one of God’s key attributes, omniscience, therefore either God cannot exist as He is currently defined in classical theism unless we give up on human free will.

Following these steps you should move up the mark bands on 12 mark questions!

I can help you with marking and planning these questions, by booking a meeting or offline feedback session.