The most important thing about structuring any essay is knowing what you think about the question! Before you work on the specifics of what goes in which paragraph, try to think of a short, one- or two-sentence answer to the question you've been asked. This is your overall argument. Keeping this in mind as you write will keep you from waffling and make your structure much more focussed.
In terms of the structure of the paragraphs, there are several ways you could do this. Some people like to split their essays into themes or topics (so if you were, say, evaluating why Germany lost World War II, you might want to split it into sections like international relations, economics, military technology, domestic morale).
Another good way is to organise your essay by argument. You will have done this before in simple “for-and-against” essays, where you argue two sides of the question and then conclude. For A-level you need to make this a little more sophisticated- if you can, bring in other historians’ opinions. For example, a really good essay structure is to explain why a particular historian or group of historians think a certain way, explain how these views could be challenged, and then put forward your own opinion on the issue. This structure has the advantage of keeping you focussed on the question rather than adding in unnecessary description, and evidence of independent thought and knowledge of historians’ views should pull you up into the higher grade boundaries
Both structures are equally valid: you will find that certain questions and your own writing style might lend themselves to one or the other approach. Whichever you choose, the important thing is to keep things clear and simple: focus your paragraphs with a Point Evidence Explain approach (or something similar) and remember that every piece of information you put in has to be relevant to answering the question.
I really liked GCSE History and because I got an A* in it, I took it for AS Level. However, I haven't really been adjusting well to the essay writing. I don't entirely understand how to structure the essay in terms of what actually goes into each paragraph. I understand that you need to develop analytical responses whilst having explicit understanding with relevant evidence but it's really difficult to put this all into a paragraph. Also, I get really distracted and it normally takes me ages to write a history essay whereas everyone else completes it within 1 hour.
Ah, I'm doing Edexcel AS History and the units are: Scramble for Africa and Britain and the American Colonies 1740-1769. Can anyone help me with the content in this as well?
I know it's a lot to ask but thank you!
I am also with Edexcel for A2 - however I'm doing Medieval History. I may be able to help on a few things.
Firstly, the most important difference between GCSE and A Level History is that you are negatively marked for any irrelevant information - therefore try to make sure that your essay is tightly argued and is focused.
Moreover, at the beginning of AS , I fell into the trap of trying to include everything related to the topic and many examples, this was a major pitfall- try and avoid this. Rather, you are better of including a few relevant examples and focusing on your analysis.
A good structure to use is Point, Evidence, Explain and LINK. Linking your arguments will get you the higher grades.
Finally make sure you always refer back to the question so you keep your essay cogent.
With regards to timing issues, at this point of the year don't worry too much about spending more time. I too was like this. But, I promise with practice, it will become second nature! Perhaps you can slowly start setting yourself time limits when completing essays at home, and eventually build up to the time required for your exams.
I hope this all helps ! And like I said, at this time of the year don't worry too much (assuming you don't have any January exams!!)
Building up both sides of an argument then demolishing them through further points is pretty key to scoring top marks, my Hist teacher said.