Sample Data-Based Questions

One of the most difficult parts of trying to teach the ‘Data-Based Question’ (DBQ) on the Politics & Society course as it currently stands is the lack of “Past Papers” to give students a sense of how this particular question should be approached. Yes, obviously, they should be getting practice of gathering and analysing data themselves throughout the two years of study, but that only gets them so far when it comes to sitting the exam. So I’ve decided that over the next year or so, I’m going to try and produce a few samples that will make it a little easier for students to get used to the process.

So here’s my first offering: Sample DBQ 1 – Election Integrity and Electoral Commission

As I always remind my own students, “Any DBQ that you do, automatically becomes a CASE STUDY for you to refer to in future”. So the goals of the documents that I produce will be two-fold. Firstly, they should enhance the learning in specific areas that are directly relevant to the course content/subject specification (in this case Learning Outcome 2.5 – “summarise research evidence on the effectiveness of the Irish system of elections in representing the will of all the Irish people”). Secondly, they aim to familiarize students with the kinds of questions that have been asked thus far. These seem to range from questions that focus directly on ‘comprehension’ of the key content and arguments, to reliability and methodology, presentation of written and visual data, bias in authorship, and comparative views of the two documents. But, bear in mind that we only have two past exams and an SEC sample paper to go on, so this will (by definition) be an imperfect set of sample questions. I’m forever telling students that they should look at the ‘N’ number (sample size) in any data they gather and so I should heed my own advice and not make any extravagant claims about anything I produce based on the ‘trends’ that I’ve tried to infer. Seeing the ‘backup’ paper in November that students were supposed to have sat in June will undoubtedly help with improving the relevance of future sample DBQs!

This one-page handout with suggestions on how to approach the 50-Mark question at the end of this section should also help students: DBQ Long Answer 2020 Suggested Approach

There are a few specific issues with the first sample DBQ (link above) that students and teachers should be aware of… The visual representation of data in Document A are probably too expansive (also the colours are slightly off in the world map, but I can’t seem to fix that…) and word count of the ‘Opinion Piece’ in Document B is a bit longer than I would expect to be included on an SEC exam, but if you remember that the goal is also to produce DBQs that help with learning, then I think that it’s ok in this instance. In other words, I wouldn’t be suggesting that students use this DBQ to practice their ‘exam timing’ or anything like that, but I do think that it will help students get used to the general process.

The final problem with this process is that it takes A VERY LONG TIME to put these samples together. This one took me about 3 ½ – 4 hours and there may still be a few typos. I have gotten a little bit of practice putting these together for the DEB Mock Papers, but even still, it’s a very labour-intensive process. Even more frustratingly, the sample answers become dated (if not obsolete) relatively quickly and there’s absolutely no way I’ll be able to go back and update them, so you’ll have to take them as they come! As always, if you have any (constructive) criticisms of this sample paper and/or suggestions on how to improve them, then please do get in contact. I’m always eager to improve.

Anyway, I hope they’re useful, and that I’ll have time to produce a few more in the next few months.

JD 11/8/2020


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