Top tips for answering ERQs

Command terms in essays:

ERQs or essays will have one of the 4 AO3 command terms: Contrast, discuss, evaluate or to what extent. Be sure to deliver pay close attention to the command term when writing your answer.


  • Contrast two models of memory
  • Discuss stereotyping
  • Evaluate schema theory
  • To what extent does culture affect behaviour and/or cognition?

How long to spend on your essay:

Your essay should take roughly one hour, maybe a little less. You should spend around 10 minutes planning your essay leaving 50 minutes for the writing. If you leave 10 minutes for checking the essay at the end, this would leave 20 minutes for the description and 20 minutes for the evaluation. Knowing how long you have for each section should help with regard to working out roughly how much depth you need to prepare.


Work out roughly what you intend to cover in criteria B, C and D. Portion your time up carefully to give yourself a framework in which to work.


  • Define key terms from the question
  • Analyse the question and the assumptions that it makes
  • Put your answer in context if necessary
  • Set your agenda; a mini-plan for the essay to prime the reader for what is to follow (what is the main theory in this area, which key pieces of research are you going to focus on in your evaluation, are there any applications of this topic in the real world, is there any alternative explanation which you intend to use as comparison?)

Main body of the essay

  • Be sure to describe the main areas of knowledge and understanding with care
  • Take care with your use of terminology, think before you write, is this really the correct term? Always go back over our work, proof reading for poor use of terminology. Creating decks of quizlets cards for each topic and testing yourself regularly will help ensure you develop your psychology lexicon well throughout the course.
  • When citing psychological research studies be precise in your understanding, and depending on the question, make sure your focus is in the correct place, e.g. findings need to be the focus when using a study to support a theory, procedural details will help you to evaluate the study used as support.
  • Use the sandwich model (PET) to ensure your points are sustained and fully developed, always making sure you have linked your paragraphs back to the question, showing how your points are relevant
  • Weave competing arguments throughout your work, on the one hand, on the other hand.
  • Use the TEAA model to help structure evaluation; Theories need to be evaluated  using research EvidenceApplications to the Real world and by making comparisons with Alternative Theories
  • Studies used as evidence can be GRAVE’d to identify issues with the studies which might limit their usefulness as supporting evidence


  • time to draw the essay to a close; answer the question directly
  • don;t bring any new evidence in at this point
  • try to avoid simply summarising what you have already said
  • give an overall impression where you synthesis your idea into a final judgement regarding the contribution made by this area of psychology; you could consider the implications based in the arguments presented and the applications

Overall advice

  • a killer introduction and conclusion will top and tail your essay perfectly, giving the examiner a warm fuzzy feeling at the beginning and the end!
  • be sure to clarify terminology and argument with care; explain yourself thoroughly, come show off a little, you know stuff, be proud, share it!
  • Make sure your essay contains at least two pieces of research and that you have presented the aim, procedural details and accurate and precise findings of each
  • Always think whether the critical thinking you have included is actually relevant to the demands of the questions asked, take the time to explicitly show the examiner why you have made this particular point; be systematic, be thorough!
  • Pay close attention to the command term!

Writing an introduction: Example sheet How to write a decent introduction