Mark Schemes: Source of Content for GP Essays!

In my last post I wrote about how your answer-sheets are evaluated by CIE. Now, in this post I will be writing about how mark schemes can be useful for your contents.

In fact your mark schemes are hidden treasures, gold mines, or whatever you prefer to call them. I guess most of you have seen past papers, if you haven’t then see them or directly see the mark schemes. The difference is that mark scheme additionally contains some ideas for the answers of the past paper questions. So, this can be very useful resource for you especially, to get ideas to write essays on the complex or difficult questions. I have taken an extract from Oct/Nov 2009 Mark Scheme to demonstrate you how much valuable it is:
9. To what extent is the present celebrity culture harmful or beneficial?

The question is not seeking a ‘right’ answer. Any view on how far current celebrity culture is harmful or beneficial may receive Content marks, as may appropriate exemplification and argument for the view expressed.

Examples of areas for discussion and exploration with reference to the question include:

  • features and extent of present-day celebrity culture and its fuelling by the media, with examples: global-scale celebrity culture, coverage of stars from film, pop music, sports, etc. – associated lifestyles, gossip, merchandising, etc.;

  • the apparent popular need or demand for celebrity figures/icons (raising psychological issues which may be thought potentially ‘harmful’ or an eternal fact of human nature); the global pursuit of media fame/celebrity (burgeoning TV ‘reality shows’) and the possibility of being ‘famous for being famous’ or for a glamorous/notorious lifestyle, etc.;

  • celebrity culture excesses and possibly harmful consequences: media pursuit of celebrities (by paparazzi, etc.), media devoted entirely to celebrity culture (Hello magazine and similar), celebrity styles which may foster unrealistic or harmful aspirations (quests for a slim body, celebrity ‘beauty’ and accoutrements, the aping of morally questionable celebrity behaviour, cult allegiances, etc.);

  • converse arguments for the beneficial effects of celebrity culture: celebrities as workers in good causes, as humanitarian ambassadors and fundraisers, ‘brand’ wealth-creators, etc., and as beneficial role models (however defined);

  • argument and conclusion (‘harmful or beneficial’) in answer to the question.


This is NOT an exhaustive list, and it is not expected that a candidate will cover all of these areas for a mark in Band 1.

Give credit to use of appropriate local/national/international examples.

To gain Content marks in the top two Levels, answers should show good awareness of present-day celebrity culture and trends within it, and come to a well-supported assessment of whether, on balance, it is predominantly ‘harmful or beneficial’ in effect.

Page 9, Mark Scheme: October/November 2009, Syllabus:8001, Paper:01



In the excerpt above the instructions are very clear but still I want to simplify and clarify them to you in case you don't understand or misunderstand.

The question is not seeking right answer (Most GP questions don't ask you questions for right answers): This means you are not asked for an ultimate or a perfect answer, which can be agreed upon by everyone. People don't agree completely with anyone. They disagree at certain point.  So, you should not try to say that whatever you say is perfect or totally correct. You should consider the limitations of your opinions too.

The areas of discussion provided above are "Not exhaustive": It means that the list of ideas given above are limited and you can include many other ideas other than the given ones in your essays. Plus, you are not expected to cover all the given ideas as well because there are too many ideas for you to discuss in a 500-600 words essay. So, don't panic by thinking that you are expected to know a lot of things. CIE people are good at estimating the limitations and they can consider yours too. They know that humans cannot be perfect and thus cannot completely avoid making a mistake. They can only minimize them up to the extent which is acceptable.

Give credit for local/national/international examples: It means that appropriate examples are welcomed. But please note that you are not forced to give examples. You should use examples only at appropriate places. Try your best to use them in a meaningful way and don't just try to insert them somewhere in the essay. You should also note and understand that it may not be possible to provide examples in some essay questions. So, try to search for good examples but don't lose  any sleep over it.

Finally, be aware about the recent happenings: Read or view or listen to the news regularly for that. If possible approach to the news in English. This can really help you boost up your content such as examples, facts, and opinions as well as your English language.

In conclusion, the Mark Schemes are gold mines and it's high time you dug out the gold from them. Best of luck!

Update: The instructions on how and where to download mark schemes and other materials are given at the External Resources page.

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