Example AS Question on the Constitution

Question 1 on AS-Level Paper 2 gives you a choice of two 10-mark questions, to be completed in 15 minutes.

Describe the key features of the UK constitution. [10 marks]

These questions require a short essay-style response. They are targeted at Assessment Objective 1 (knowledge and understanding). To reach the highest level (8-10 marks), accurate and comprehensive knowledge and understanding are required.

· Make sure that you include its key features:

· its uncodified and unentrenched character

· its unitary nature

· the concept of parliamentary sovereignty

· the rule of law.

· Each of these points will require a paragraph consisting of a few lines of explanation. Do not let yourself focus so heavily on one area that you neglect the others.

· You are describing, rather than developing an argument, so there is no need for a conclusion.

Here is an example taken from a student's answer. In this paragraph the student describes the unitary nature of the constitution.

The UK is said to have a unitary constitution. This means that sovereignty, or ultimate authority, is located at the centre, in London. Until the late 1990s the different parts of the UK were all governed in roughly the same way. This changed with the introduction of devolution — the creation of a Scottish parliament and assemblies with lesser powers in Wales and Northern Ireland, which are responsible for policies in their own area, such as healthcare and education. The UK Parliament can still alter the powers of the different bodies and so it still has ultimate sovereignty. The UK is sometimes described as a 'union' rather than a 'unitary' state because the various 'sub-national' parts have different powers and functions. It is not a federal state like the USA, where the powers of the different levels of government are guaranteed by a codified constitution.

· This paragraph gives the right amount of detail for this kind of question. Notice, for example, that the student defines devolution but does not go into great detail about it. More than this would not be expected. Although important, devolution is still only one aspect of the UK Constitution.

· The answer shows a comprehensive understanding of the concept of a unitary constitution, and the points made by the student are related to the wider context of how the UK is governed.

· The student uses relevant terminology, such as 'union state' and 'federal', which shows a confident level of knowledge and understanding.