First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy Cosmological Question

Here’s a break down of a student’s answer for the question on the Cosmological Argument from the new spec exams 2017 (Examiner’s Report 2017: What can we learn?).

To what extent does Aquinas’ Cosmological argument successfully reach the conclusion that there is a transcendent creator? (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 15/15
A02 15/15

This is the same student who wrote the POE answer (see First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy POE Question) so she displays similar essay writing techniques in this answer too.

The structure is very clear and simple with an introduction, four main paragraphs and a conclusion.


Whilst this introduction does not have a quote, definition or any interesting extra details (other than the name of Aquinas’ book) which normally are required for higher grades, what this introduction does is it establishes a strong evaluative tone (‘decent attempt’, ‘credibility could be seen as questionable’) and really engages with the question (‘ transcendent creator’ and ‘successfully’ both used twice in this short bit of writing). This shows that students do not need to have a really good memory for remembering quotes or details but just need to attack the question at hand.

The four main paragraphs have a very clear theme and structure.

  1. Paragraph One: First Way
  2. Paragraph Two: Second Way
  3. Paragraph Three: Third Way
  4. Paragraph Four: Further evaluation

Example of first paragraph:

para 1 1

para 1 2

This paragraph is about 20/80% for A01/A02 (this pattern continues throughout the answer). A key importance here is that the evaluation remains on the theme of ‘movement’, this means that this paragraph remains on the First way and does not digress from this. The result is that it is easy for the reader to follow, whilst demonstrating in-depth evaluation on one key element. Look at the structure of the evaluation: criticism (through rhetorical questions), defence, then critique of the defence.

This is part of the second paragraph:

other names.JPG

The student brings in both Hume and Russell to support the evaluation and then continues to link their points back against Aquinas, to conclude the paragraph by saying Aquinas is not successful.

In the final paragraph the student compares Aquinas’ Cosmological argument to the Big Bang, arguing that the BB is more convincing thus making Aquinas argument not successful.


This leads to the conclusion of:

concl 1

This clearly argues a side, whilst recognizing there are some ‘valid’ points, on the whole it is not successful. The reader leaves this essay with a clear answer to that specific question.

For more guidance on teaching this structure see: The Four Steps to Teaching A01 & A02 Effectively

I am aiming to write a post for each answer from the Philosophy, Ethics and Christian Thought exam questions.

Thank you to my student for allowing me to use her work 🙂




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