What are synoptic links and where should I use them?

Synoptic links mean to link between ideas and areas of study. In the context of A Level Politics, synoptic links are between different papers and areas of politics (such as UK and US politics, or political theory and political processes).

Synoptic assessment enables students to show their ability to combine their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth of the subject. Not making synoptic links in your answers can limit the number of marks you are able to achieve. It can be difficult to know when and how to use synoptic links in your answers, so this article is a comprehensive guide that aims to make things clearer.

Synoptic Links in AQA A Level Politics

The AQA specification refers to synoptic links in many areas and is present in every paper you will sit.

  • Paper 1: In the 25-mark essay questions in Section C, the paper says: “In your answer you should draw on material from across the full range of your course of study in Politics.” You could draw on US politics or political theory when answering these questions.
    • For example, in a question about voting behaviour, you should refer to the content covered for Paper 1, but may also mention conservative ideas about human imperfection, or liberal ideas of liberal democracy.
  • Paper 2: Since this paper is titled ‘Comparative Politics’, there is a lot of cross-over of ideas between areas of politics. Sections A and C require you to compare UK and US politics, looking at a range of ideas. You must compare the two countries in these questions.
  • Paper 3: Political ideas can always be linked to ‘real-life’ examples in both the UK and USA. For non-core political ideas, referring to theories and examples studied for Papers 1 and 2 can help get your marks up.
    • For example, if answering a nationalism question on civic nationalism, refer to participation within the UK.

Synoptic Links in Edexcel AS Politics

Synoptic links are only required in Paper 2 for the 30-mark essay questions. You should cross-reference ideas from UK politics with UK government. For example, when mentioning the power of the Prime Minister, it you may mention performance at general elections and the participation of pressure groups.

Synoptic Links in Edexcel A Level Politics

  • Paper 2: For Question 2, the paper says ‘In your answer you should draw on relevant knowledge and understanding of the study of Component 1: UK politics and core political ideas. You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way.‘ This means that cross-referencing should occur within your answer, ideally throughout.
    • For example, if the question is about the power of the EU, mention the use of referenda and conservative views on tradition.
  • Paper 3A: Section B (question 2) asks you to compare the ideas of US politics with UK government and politics directly in the question. Your answer should be constantly comparing the idea or process as the question states.
  • Paper 3B: Section B (question 2) asks you to refer to core political ideas. So, when referring to realism, mention similar conservative ideas and thinkers. Or when referring to liberalism, mention liberal and socialist thinkers.

Find more information

Luckily for you, we have made PowerPoint explaining synoptic links with practice questions for you to get used to making the links. They can be found as part of our Revision Tools range of free resources.

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Synoptic Links in A Level Politics

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