How to answer the 24 Mark Ideologies Question (Edexcel)

This is for Edexcel and there will be different requirements for a different board such as AQA.

The 24 Mark Ideologies question on Paper 1 and Paper 2 are a different type of question to the 30 Mark Essay and Source Questions. In the 30 Mark questions you are required to put forward an argument regarding the question and whether you believe the premise of the question to be accurate. However, in the 24 Mark Ideologies question you are not testing whether the ideologies are correct in their thinking about an issue, instead, you are solely considering the extent of agreement between the different strands of the same ideology. However, it is important to note that the assessment objectives are the same:

What are the Assessment Objectives in Edexcel A-Level Politics? | Politics Teaching

What should the overall structure of the 30 Mark Essay Question look like?

The 24 Mark essay should be structured different depending on the type of question that it is. There are two types of question:

  • Holistic Question
  • Thematic Question

The holistic question is one that simply asks whether or not there is more agreement or disagreement within an ideology. These questions will be rare; however, they have been asked before. If the question is holistic, you can answer it using the big four themes:

  • Economy
  • Society
  • Human Nature
  • State

You can look at how much the strands of the ideology agree or disagree about these themes (you do not necessarily need to look at each of them individually and can instead be merged).

The other type of question is a thematic question, these will either be based on the big themes (Economy, Society, Human Nature and States) or the core principles indicated on the first page of the specification for each ideology.

These questions should themselves be approached thematically, with themes selected which are relevant to the question.

As the ideologies are more prescriptive and the exam questions have to be based on the spec, predicting potential questions for ideologies is much easier. This post here highlights the most likely ideologies questions for Conservatism, Socialism, Liberalism and Feminism.

What is meant by a thematic approach?

A thematic approach means selecting themes that are relevant to explaining the agreement and disagreements within the theme. For example:

Q. To what extent do Socialists agree on the issue of the economy?

Themes for this might be: a short paragraph on fundamental agreement, socialists’ views towards capitalism and socialist views on common ownership.

Q. To what extent do Liberals agree on the issues of freedom and liberty?

Themes for this might be: Liberal rationales for freedom based on human nature, the potential limits of personal freedom and the role of the state in addressing freedom.

How many paragraphs should I write?

If the ideology has three strands (like Socialism) your essay might best look like this:


Short Paragraph on Fundamental Agreement

Theme 1

Theme 2


If the ideology has two strands (like Liberalism):


Theme 1

Theme 2

Theme 3


What is the Golden Rule in Ideologies Essays?

The Golden Rule in Politics essays is that no paragraph/section of the essay should ever be about one strand. The problem with this approach is that whilst you may score high AO1 marks (as you can show excellent knowledge) you will not be directly analysing the differences/similarities between the strands, which is what is absolutely essential in these questions. Therefore, the following structure, whilst tempting, should be avoided:

Paragraph 1 – Revolutionary Socialists

Paragraph 2 – Social Democrats

Paragraph 3 – Third Way Socialists

What is the importance of the Named Thinkers?

You do not need to use all the named thinkers. Some, like Michael Oakeshott, are notoriously difficult to deploy.

It is essential that you include the Named Thinkers in your essays. There is an important differentiation to be made between Named Thinkers and Key Thinkers. For example, Adam Smith, who authored the Wealth of Nations, is an extremely important contributor to the understanding of classical liberalism. This means you can talk about his theory of the invisible hand of the market and receive good credit under AO1. However, he is not one of the Named Thinkers. There are five Named Thinkers for each ideology, and you have to use at least two or you are limited to Level 2 (9 marks out of 24). It is of course useful if you can use more than two, as you will be awarded AO1 marks if you do. It is very important to note that using the Named Thinkers does not just mean naming them, you need to deploy them in context. You do not need to quote from the thinkers but learning some key short quotes can be helpful.

Where are AO1 Marks being awarded?

AO1 marks are awarded for knowledge and understanding. They are awarded for understanding of the different strands and for the use of the named thinkers. Just as in the 30 Mark questions, the more specific you are able to be and the greater breadth of knowledge you can deploy will result in a higher AO1 mark. In addition, the use of political terminology is important within AO1.

Note, there is no requirement to bring in other ideologies and doing so is unlikely to see marks awarded.

Where are AO2 Marks being awarded?

The AO2 marks are rewarded for the analysis of similarity and difference between the strands of the ideology. This will build upon the knowledge developed.

Where are the AO3 Marks being awarded?

AO3 marks are being awarded for the judgement being made on whether or not there is agreement or disagreement between the themes. Just like in the 30 Mark Essay and 30 Mark Source questions, AO3 should not be saved simply for the conclusion, you should also be making judgements at the end of each section and setting out your argument in the introduction.

In addition, you should remember the question stem is ‘To what extent‘. The strands will not just agree or disagree, there will be an extent to which they do so, and you must try to consider this.

What other important lessons have been learned from previous exam series?

  • It is really important to make sure the Named Thinkers are being used to support the analysis of the strands, the Named Thinkers should not be the driving force of the essay itself.
  • It is important to ensure you consider the extent of both agreement and disagreement. There may be occasions where there is limited agreement or disagreement, but you still need to consider it where it exists and achieve some balance between them. To ensure you do this, it can be good to do a short paragraph on fundamental agreements before your main paragraphs.
  • You must focus on the relevance of the theme you have selected to answer the question. You cannot just fall into a generic description of different themes.
  • Current political examples are useful to use to illustrate the ideology in action and is rewardable as AO1. For example, Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s economic policies are a good example of a Neo-Liberal economic policy. However, this is not a study of political parties so this should only be done where appropriate (where it illustrates a point of the ideology) and should not over-focused on.

Exemplar Answer

Q. To what extent do Socialists agree on the issue of Workers’ Control? (24 Marks)

Workers’ control refers to the management of the means of production by workers, rather than by the middle-class. This can either be directly through collective ownership or indirectly through public control. Whilst all socialists advocate for the rights of working people, it does not necessarily follow that they all advocate for workers’ control of industry. In order to answer this question, the following need to be considered: the role of class in the theory and how industry should finally be organised. Ultimately, socialists do not widely agree on the theory of the importance Workers’ Control. Whilst there is some commonality between revolutionary socialists and democratic socialists, social democrats depart from the theory whilst Third Way socialists reject it entirely.

Differing beliefs in class heavily impact ideological views towards workers’ control. The strands of socialism that advocate giving more control to workers are those that see class as the most significant dividing line in society.  Revolutionary socialists like Marx and Engels believed that societies were all defined by class conflict. In each historical era there was a dialectic struggle and at the time of Das Kapital (1867) the struggle was between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels believed that the wealth of the bourgeoisie was accumulated through the exploitation of the labour of the proletariat. As such, revolutionary socialists advocate the replacement of capitalism with a system where the workers will be properly rewarded for their labour and that is run for the benefit of the workers. They believed this could only be achieved by direct workers’ control of the means of production. Democratic Socialists like Beatrice Webb have commonality with this view, also recognising that capitalism was the main cause of ‘crippling poverty and demeaning inequality’. They therefore advocated for workers control of industry to ensure workers received the ‘full fruits of their labour’. Conversely, social democrats are less clear that the traditional class struggle is as important as Marx suggested. As part of the post-war social democratic consensus, successive governments believed the key to the supporting workers was not control of industry, but public spending. Anthony Crosland, for example, was a key proponent in the emergence of comprehensive schools to allow social mobility. Further to this, Third Way socialists reject the concept of class as a dividing line believing there has been embourgeoisement since the 1980s through policies like the Right to Buy. Whilst they accept there is inequality, they do not believe this is part of a dialectic class struggle. Therefore, there is significant disagreement on the ideological basis for workers’ control, with revolutionary and democratic socialists believe class struggle justifies it whilst social democrats and third way socialists reject this view.

There are consequently also clear differences in how differing strands of socialism believe industry should be organised. Revolutionary socialists believe that workers had to take control of the means of production directly and, if necessary, through revolution. Marx believed that there should be a dictatorship of the proletariat after which there should be collective ownership, whilst slightly differently, Luxembourg believed that the dictatorship of the proletariat was folly and would simply lead to dictatorship of the party. Therefore, she advocated a spontaneous revolution after class consciousness had been achieved and therefore socialism would win a democratic mandate. Whilst democratic socialists share the goal of workers control, their methods are different. They believe that it should be achieved through nationalisation of industry. Famously, Beatrice Webb was a key author of the 1918 Labour constitution which included Clause IV which said workers should have “common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”. This can be seen in the program of Clement Attlee to nationalise key industries like coal, rail, and electricity between 1945 and 1951. Whilst democratic socialists believe there may be a place for limited public ownership, they believe that free enterprise can help workers. For example, Harold MacMillan’s middle way saw low unemployment and a rise in real wages leading to his statement in 1957 that “you’ve never had it so good”. The rise in tax revenue could be used to fund social programs like increased pensions for workers. Contrarily to all strands, third way socialists reject workers control entirely. They believe that a free market neo-liberal economy is the only way that wealth can be achieved which can then be used to support social justice projects. Famously, Peter Mandelson said “we don’t mind people being filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes”. This greater tax yield could be used to fund huge projects to increase equality of opportunity for workers. Under New Labour this included the largest school and hospital building program in history. The fact that New Labour oversaw the removal of Clause IV in 1995 is a clear indicator of the ideological shift that Third Way socialists follow. In summation, there are significant disagreements between how industry should be organised. Revolutionary socialists and democratic socialists believe that workers should have control of industry, either directly or indirectly. However, Third Way socialists reject this entirely, believing workers’ control limits economic growth. Therefore, whilst some strands have agreement, overall, there is limited agreement on how industry should be organised.

In conclusion, it is clear that socialists do not agree on worker’s control to a significant extent because they disagree on both the justification for it and how industry should in fact be organised. Whilst there is clear agreement between revolutionary socialists and democratic socialists on the class struggle as a justification for workers’ control, both social democrats and Third Way socialists question the importance of class struggle in society. Further, whilst revolutionary socialists and democratic socialists agree industry should be organised with Worker’s in control, either directly or indirectly, Third Way socialists reject this entirely, believing it stunts innovation and economic growth – thereby harming working people. Therefore, it cannot be said there is significant agreement amongst socialists on workers’ control.

What is good about this response?

  • It follows the Golden Rule for Ideologies questions that every paragraph compares the different strands of the ideology.
  • Good knowledge is shown of all strands with consideration of differences and agreement.
  • The Key Thinkers are used at not just named.
  • It develops thematic points which address the question.
  • It clearly considers the extent or agreement and disagreement within the themes relevant to the question.
  • Note – It is normally a good idea to do a short paragraph on fundamental agreements before the thematic paragraphs, however, this was not necessary for this answer as the fundamental agreements were very limited.

Other Exemplar answers can be found here.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask them in the comments below.

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