First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: Philosophy Soul Question

Here’s a breakdown of a student’s answer for the question on the Soul, Mind, Body unit from the new spec exams 2016 (first years).

‘There is no such thing as a soul’ Discuss (30)

OCR marks given for student’s answer:
A01 9/15
A02 8/15

I used this answer as part of my lesson on essay writing for this unit. I gave the students 3 highlighters: critical words (purple) , use of ‘no/ such thing’ (blue) and every time a new name is used (green). What was clear very quickly is that this student used multiple critical words, wide selection of scholarly names and linked points back to the question.


So where did this student lose her marks? (note: you can see another one of her answers First Year Exam Paper Breakdown: DCT Death and Afterlife Question that scored full marks) From what I can read there are no major errors or confusion over material as that would have made it easy to see how it is band 3. There is also evidence of quotes, examples (e.g. charioteer) and key words (e.g. substance dualist).

So I read the exam report to see the what the mark scheme expectations were (Examiner’s Report 2017: What can we learn? for more information). I think the marks given (or in this case not given) are for three reasons:

  1. Name dumping in some places– Some names are used such as Geach or Aquinas but their views are not fully explained or critiqued.
  2. Evidence of not always justifying the evaluation–  Names are used for and against each other e.g.  Aquinas is used to disagree with Aristotle but there is no discussion as to whose view is more convincing etc.
  3. Synthetic links to question (don’t think that is the best word to use!) – a lot of the links to the question come at the end of a paragraph or point and just say e.g “therefore, for many this would lead them to believe that there is no such thing as a soul” rather than integrating the question more into the points.

Further comment (after a bit of teacher peer marking):

“The student hasn’t got higher marks is that in places their paras lack a clear focus – there’s a certain amount of knowledge dropping but it isn’t consistently clear why they are including this information or what point they wish to make with it. Therefore, in places, the information presented is not very clear or logical. So, for example, when they bring in Ryle, they don’t really explain the concept of a category error very clearly, or what Ryle means by ghost in the machine, because they don’t know why they’re talking about this. The para then moves onto Geach, without explaining why.”

For further help on structuring an argument with a clear focus see: “How do I get my essay from a D to a C?”, The Five Paragraph Rule and Adding the ‘critical’ to your critical analysis: Developing A02

Thank you to my student for letting me use her work.

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