It is most encouraging to see the growing number of candidates achieving a high grade in the Internal Assessment paper. Any competent student of Philosophy should approach this task with great confidence and a way of showing off his philosophical skills. Our postmodern world is full of cultural sources of philosophical inspiration. Think, for instance, of Roland Barthes’ personal interpretation of consumerist society and its new icons in his 1957 Mythologies. Not surprisingly, the latest report points out the failure of too many students to back up their personal views with clear, specific themes taken from the philosophical tradition. The most common trap is to offer a wide range of themes instead of focusing on one or two, carefully analysed and cogently illustrated. Several drafts are strongly recommended in order to trim the essay down to its essential core of ideas. Judicious – but not too long – quotations should also be adduced as relevant references to the argument under way.
During the preparation of the essay, candidates should be frequently reminded that apart from the required presence of an adequate (and believable) bibliography at the end of their work, they must also clearly indicate which topic or topics in the syllabus they intend to address in their philosophical enquiry. Some teachers favour the use of songs as valid intellectual stimuli whereas others discourage their students from using them as philosophical launch pads. As in poetry, outstanding lyrics (they DO exist!) can lead to original and sometimes very stimulating discussions on a ‘big’ philosophical theme such as love, friendship or war (See Bob Dylan’s songs as perfect stimuli to all three). Finally, intellectual rigour and analytical depth must be the constant aims of the candidates as both must be systematically throughout if the IA essay is to jump at the external examiner and be awarded a much sought after top mark.