This section is not a brain dump of academic knowledge!
This section is all about your ability to write a structured, logical and reasonable argument. The question will not be subject specific; you will not need any prerequisite knowledge to answer it. However, having residual knowledge about a topic will help!
What is the format of the writing task?
- You have 30 minutes (including planning).
- You pick one question from a set of four.
- You have a maximum of two sides of A4.
You will be provided with some additional scrap paper for planning; this will not be marked.
How is the writing task marked?
Although the writing task is set independently by the Admissions Testing Service, they will not mark the essay submitted. The essay will instead be passed directly to Oxford tutors along with the data collected regarding the applicant’s marks for Section 1.
The “mark scheme” will vary from admissions tutor to admissions tutor. Some will provide a numerical score, others will give verbal feedback or a grade. Regardless of marking style, all the tutors are looking for the ability to organise ideas in a clear and concise manner.
The weighting for this task is also dependant on the tutor; this is entirely at the discretion of the college you apply for.
How should I pick the question?
Picking the right question is an extremely important. It’s crucial you understand exactly what the question is asking. If you don’t there’s a danger your essay might miss the point entirely!
Some key points to consider when picking a question;
- Ensure you read all of the questions in full before deciding upon a question.
- Avoid any questions you don’t fully understand.
- Think about the deeper issues the question can bring up.
- A good essay on a seemingly unrelated topic will be looked upon far more preferably than a poor attempt at addressing a relative issue.
- You should have an opinion on the topic at hand.
Planning the essay
Planning is a crucial part of essay writing, and ensures that you are prepared to write an effective essay. With a time limit of half an hour to complete section 2 of the assessment, a lot of candidates panic and neglect the planning stage of the writing task.
We’ve got a brilliant blog post that outlines what you should be doing with your time for this section – it is focused on the BMAT but the same principles apply here.
READ THE ESSAY PLAN BLOG POST
What you should get from planning the essay
- Get your thoughts down on paper e.g. PROs & CONs
- Structure your arguments
- Choosing the strongest points to speak about
- Prepare your conclusion and final opinion
- Create a skeleton of the entire essay
Writing the essay
You should structure the essay with a clear Introduction, Main Body and Conclusion.
Keep in mind this saying: In your introduction, say what you’re going to say; in the main body, you say it and in your conclusion, say what you’ve already said by bringing it all together.
Present a brief outline of what you will discuss. If you wish, you can highlight the key themes that will run through the essay, but keep it short!
You should have a bunch of points written down that you can call on for this section. Consider which are the best points that help illustrate your argument, do you have enough points to make relating to them? Remember, you can’t go into detail for all of them. You should focus on the quality, not quantity of points made since you only have two A4 sides to write on. Choose the points which make the best original contribution to the topic.
Choose 3-6 points, then you should then write PROs and CONs of each point for each paragraph. Ensure you have a balanced essay which considers all points of view fairly. Thinking about all elements of an argument is important; thinking of alternative views can strengthen your argument for or against something.
Here you should bring together the points in the main body. You shouldn’t bring any new points into the conclusion, focus just on what you have previously spoken about. If you have summarised each point in the main body, then a shorter conclusion will suffice, and vice versa.