One of the most difficult essays or theses to write are those that ask “to what extent questions” or demand “to what extent answers.” The technicalities involved in dissecting these kinds of essays cause a lot of students to lose valuable marks. Keep reading to learn more about handling these types of questions or essays.
What does “to what extent” mean?
The first thing to understand about a “to what extent essay” is to grasp the meaning of “to what extent.” Some assignments might be worded as “to what degree.” The phrases are similar in meaning and content. The meaning is that the question or essay wants you to state how crucial or contributory a specific factor is to a topic.
In simpler terms, there’s usually a topic of discussion, and one or more factors are usually attached to the topic. So, “to what extent questions” want you to assign a degree of influence that one or more factors have on the topic of discussion. To simplify it further, you can express what extent a factor has on a topic by grading it in three steps: high, equal, and low.
Usually, the number of factors is two or more, and your task is to compare them by assigning a degree of influence. Hence, the format of your answer’s summary will be “This factor serves a more crucial role in a specific topic than the other, which has less importance.”
Typically, “to what extent questions” come in argumentative essays, and the focus topic is historical. Hence, it’s not common that a single factor will be asked in the question. This is because the factors responsible for historical events are usually multiple.
First considerations in answering “to what extent questions”
The following are the initial prerequisites for giving a befitting answer to “to what extent questions”:
Make adequate research
The first step in answering “to what extent questions” is to have a wide knowledge base. This is especially crucial if the question is an argumentative essay where you must argue based on facts and figures. Anything short of facts and figures will be useless and earn you little or no mark. Hence, the need to read widely and consult various sources on the subject matter cannot be overemphasized. Sources of reliable facts include textbooks, magazines, journals, and trusted websites.
You must read widely for and against the factors presented in the question. For instance, if the question asks, “to what extent was cultural belief more important in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic than the economic condition of African nations in 2020, you must read in two directions. The first step is to read about the degree of influence of cultural beliefs on the COVID pandemic, then read about the degree of importance of the economic condition of Africa in the spread of the disease. All these must come into play while considering that having comprehensive knowledge about COVID is also paramount.
Arrange the facts
After doing adequate research about the factors present in the question, it’s normal that you’d have a lot of points to make in your thesis or essay. However, organizing or arranging these points in order of importance is crucial. This is because bringing up weak points first will make your argument seem weak and incoherent, which might dent your grade.
Hence, do not mix up both sides of the essay by simultaneously bringing up points for both factors. Your capability to demonstrate logical thinking should be reflected in the essay by bringing up strong points for or against a specific factor, and this is the basis for assessing the answers given to “to what extent questions.”
Speak on both sides
As hinted at earlier, argumentative essays or, “to what extent questions” are rarely framed to spring discussions emanating from one factor only. Most of them want you to discuss an issue from the perspective of two or more contributing factors. Hence, it’ll only be fair and praiseworthy that your “to what extent” answer includes a discussion of both factors, even though your essay should gravitate more toward the most influential one.
Phrases such as “despite the role of,” “many still believe that,” and “even though it’s common knowledge” can be used to introduce the discussion about the second factor. Being able to discuss a topic from two sides is a sign of understanding and deep knowledge of the subject.
This is usually the most intricate part of your “to what extent answer”, as how you conclude leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It also shows your character strength in giving preference to one point without condemnation. Hence, a balanced conclusion that reflects both points and, more importantly, the preference of one over the other is significant to your “to what extent answer.”
How to answer “to what extent questions”?
The first step in writing a “to what extent answer” is to identify the elements you wish to compare and then decide which elements you wish to give a greater degree of influence. Your answer or hypotheses should state this clearly. In the example given earlier, to what extent was cultural belief more important in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic than the economic condition of African nations in 2020? Your hypotheses should start in this fashion: “Factor A (cultural belief) has a greater degree of importance or influence than Factor B (economic conditions) because….“
You can also state it as “Despite the role of Factor B (economic conditions), Factor A (cultural belief) has more importance in the topic.” Summarily, your answer should state the two factors clearly. Show the topic of contention and highlight your preference.
The next step in your “to what extent answer” is to give your essay structure. You can follow the popular five-paragraph pattern, where you have an introductory segment, three paragraphs that discuss the issue extensively, and a concluding paragraph. Your introduction should start with a discussion of the subject and end with your hypotheses, as stated earlier. This shows the reader or examiner what to expect and your position early in the essay.
The two paragraphs should discuss why you think it contributes more to the topic than the other factor. On the other hand, the third paragraph should be reserved for the role of the less important factor, as explained earlier, since you must present arguments on both sides.
The concluding paragraph should restate your answer or hypotheses with an opening that suggests that you came to that conclusion owing to the evidence you’ve mentioned. At this point, it is pertinent to mention that the facts you should bring up in your “to what extent answer” should not be restricted to how the factors mentioned in the question affect the topic alone.
You can move a bit outside the topic by discussing how the factors affect other things. For instance, in the example that says to what extent cultural belief was more important in the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic than the economic condition of African nations in 2020, you should speak in relation to COVID-19. However, you can support your argument by briefly discussing how cultural beliefs and economic conditions affect other things besides COVID-19. Doing this will help you buttress the points you mentioned, especially the ones that you give preference. In the long run, even though they affect the spread of COVID-19, economic conditions also affect other aspects of life.
Some “to what extent questions” have only one factor in them, and whenever this happens, you’re expected to discuss how that factor affects the topic at hand without necessarily comparing it with other factors. Sometimes, “to what extent questions” come with more than two factors. You must dedicate each paragraph in the essay’s body to each factor.
“To what extent” Examples
Aside from the example of the COVID-19 pandemic, these are more typical questions and answers that will further shed light on the discussion.
A typical answer to this goes thus: listening skills are more crucial for schoolchildren as they make them more functional members of society than mere speaking.
To what extent is it true that most people cannot handle the truth?
Here, you must argue for and against the fact that most people cannot handle the truth.
To what extent do you agree with the laws of attraction?
Here, you must start with a discussion on the laws and attractions and then discuss the pros and cons of each law.
Other salient tips for answering “to what extent questions”
Several academic writing services can help you fine-tune your answer to “to what extent questions.” These services range from helping you identify the requirements of the questions to structuring the essay, giving research tips, and assisting you in proofreading the answer. It’s not enough to write a lengthy essay; the goal is to ensure that the essay is free from grammatical, typographical, and other errors. Hence the role of these services.