Expert Guide to Studying for 'A-Level' General Paper 2

General Paper 2 requires an element of Critical reading, however its overarching aim is not just content understanding and retention, but rather understanding the content/arguments and the reasons why the author has made the arguments and presented them the way he has. This requires a slightly different approach fro SQ3R. At Sophia Education, we’ll adopt the Analyze, Interpret, Evaluate Approach. This approach revolves asking certain questions to help ascertain the author’s perspective in his writing, facilitating understanding of the text for the SAQs and AQ.

  • Analysis: What are the Patterns of the Text

In this step, one engages in understanding the arguments that the author has made. Below are some guiding questions;

  • What is the thesis or overall theory?

  • What are the supporting points that create the argument? How do they relate to each other? How do they relate to the thesis?

  • What are the examples used as evidence for the supporting points? How do they relate to the points they support? To each other? To the thesis?

  • What techniques of persuasion are used (appeals to emotion, reason, authority, etc.)?

  • What rhetorical strategies are used (e.g. definition, explanation, description, narration, elaboration, argumentation, evaluation)?

  • What modes of analysis are used (illustration, comparison/contrast, cause and effect, process analysis, classification/division, definition)?

  • Interpretation: What is the Significance of those Patterns

In this step, one attempts to understand the reasons why the author has made these arguments, in particular showing an understanding of the author’s context and perspective. This is useful to draw comparisons from in the AQ, between the author’s and our society. Below are some guiding questions;

  • What debates were the author and the text engaging with at that time?

  • What kinds of reasoning (historical, psychological, political, philosophical, scientific, etc) are employed?

  • What methodology is employed and what theory is developed?

  • How might my reading of the text be biased? Am I imposing 21st century ideas or values on the text? If so, is this problematic?

  • Evaluation: How well does the text do what it does? What is its value?

  • Here, one attempts to evaluate the strength and effectiveness of the author’s arguments, largely with the aim of identifying weak links in arguments. These weak links may be exploited in the AQ in critiquing the author’s arguments. Below are some guiding questions;

  • How does it contribute to the discipline? Are its main conclusions original?

  • Does the evidence and reasoning adequately support the theory/theories presented?

  • Are the sources reliable?

  • Is the argument logically consistent? Convincing?

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the theory?

  • How would competing theories criticize this text? How could the author reply?

Finally, for Paper 2, given the time constraint and need for deep textual analysis, students might find prudent to jot down quick analytical notes in the margin of the insert, as well as quickly summarizing the key idea of each paragraph for easy referencing later on as questions are being attempted.

In conclusion, we showed you how critical reading is useful within the GP subject to facilitate understanding and improve performance in the subject. The one key here is to consistently practice and apply these techniques. While difficult at first, the key point here is to persevere; it will only get better as one continues to practice and employ these skills! If you wish to get extra help in achieving your desired grade, Sophia Education provides personalized tuition guaranteed to help you improve by at least 2-grades in just weeks.

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