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Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Comparison. This is a forgotten topic often skated over, given scant attention or not focussed on at all. If you read the examiner reports (AQA and Edexcel flavours) you will see this is a common theme. They are clearly trying to help us to pivot towards this as a taught essay technique.

The majority of questions over the 3 papers of the Edexcel have the “assess” command word. Often this is type of question is written as “assess the importance of X to Y”.

The expectation is that the student will argue why the factor is or isn’t important to Y and then compare this to another factor. For example, "is price important to customers buying premium cars?" Yes / No and perhaps the quality is the more important factor. This is not a straightforward comparison. Quality was not given in the question, the student is drawing on their own business knowledge and can also get important Level 1 marks for this as well.

Designing learning activities to take this into account – using a stepped approach

1) Learning the language of comparison

We are looking for similarities and differences. A good way to teach this is the Venn diagram. The bonus is to hand out A3 paper, draw 3 circles and then give the topics. Students understand a Venn diagram because maths and history have already done the heavy lifting on this technique with them in ks3. Some may need a reminder but in all workshops or lessons I have given on this, the students know how to draw a Venn diagram. They are very comfortable with this way of working.

2) Keep repeating the buzzwords for comparison: similarities and differences.

Ask students to create answer Venns as posters, and use the WILF (What I am looking for) and WAGOLLS (What A Good One Looks Like) systems. Turn it into a competition for the best one. Offer a small prize as an incentive. I found bags of Maltezers or chocolate buttons had the highest currency and produced the best examples.

3) Link assess questions to comparison

Find some good examples – dip into the Edexcel International A Level if you have “done” every past paper. Ask students not to write an answer but to draw a Venn only. Then ask students to swap with a pair and write an essay based on their Venn. The questions here are from the unlocked 2019 papers, if you need the answers the link is here LINK

4) Link importance in 'assess' questions to the comparison of a factor or example not given

Find 3 more examples where this would be suitable. This time instead of the Venn ask for students to identify what the “other” factor could be. They should be able to draw up a decent class list. The questions here are from the unlocked 2019 papers if you need the answers the link is here LINK

Written by Sarah Hilton (c) 2023

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