Most students struggle with addressing “far too much” questions, because the value terms (“too much” or “far too much”) are often poorly dealt with.
Consider this question:
‘Far too much attention is given to beauty products and treatments.’ Do you agree? (2004)
It is interesting to note that when we agree with this (and similarly worded) question, we tend to forget the “too” and simply talk about “a lot” – and this is a problem. However, when we disagree with this statement, even if we forget to address the “too”, our answer still tends to be fully relevant. In other words, for this question, ignoring the value term tends to hurt your grade more when you agree than when you disagree.
To illustrate, let’s consider what would happen if you ignore the value phrase “far too much”:
If you agree, you will probably say that there is a lot of attention being given to beauty products and treatment. This, however, doesn’t prove that “far too much” attention is given, because “a lot” isn’t quite the same as “far too much”. On the scale of extremity, “a lot” is less extreme than “far too much”. If your stand is a more extreme one, proving something less extreme isn’t good enough to justify your stand.
If you disagree (again, considering a situation where “far too much” was ignored), you will probably say that there is little attention being paid to beauty products and treatments. To disprove “far too much”, we can prove “a lot (but not far too much), “moderate amounts” or “little attention” – in other words, neglecting the “too” still meets the question’s requirements.
So you could get by by simply disagreeing. However, a better “disagreement” essay, and all “agreement” essays would need to have a clear idea of what the line between “a lot” and “too much” / “far too much” is.
KEY SKILL (to address “too much” or “far too much”):
Set a clear yardstick (or several yardsticks) for the value phrase “far too much”. This should be made clear in your introduction, and each body paragraph should show a clear link back to your yardstick(s).
What we need to understand in such questions is that there it involves a scale of responses, ranging from “no attention” at one end, to “complete attention” at the other end. This question, on “far too much”, considers a fairly extreme position – you may define it as very close to the extreme end of the scale, or even consider it to be at the absolute end of the scale.
In any question that involves a scale of responses, we might want to first generate general ideas about the topic, then refine those ideas to get an idea of what different positions on the scale might mean. For example, we might first consider what “attention to beauty products and treatments” means. Next, we might ask ourselves what “little attention” and “a lot of attention” mean. Finally, we would ask ourselves, what’s the difference between “a lot of attention” and “far too much attention”? If our answer to both questions are the same, then that’s a sign that something’s wrong with our interpretation of “far too much”, and we’ll have to pause and think a little more about what yardstick/s we are / should be using to measure “far too much”.
We might want to apply the terms we are dealing with to simpler contexts, to give us an idea of the approach that is needed. In this case, we might want to ask ourselves, what’s the difference between eating a lot, and eating far too much? Or the difference between having a lot of homework, and far too much homework? What about having too many clothes? Could we argue that there’s no such thing as having too many clothes? Why? Or what about if someone smokes one cigarette a day? Most would agree that it doesn’t count as a lot, but some might argue that it is still too much!
From all these questions, and from our answers to these questions, we might get a better idea of how to approach a “too much” question by applying the same skills and techniques we used to answer these to the actual exam question.
Structuring the essay
If you’ve thought of one yardstick, you might want to organise your paragraphs by levels/aspects, linking back to your yardstick in each paragraph.
Yardstick: far too much = unnecessary
Para 1 [Aspect: Media]
Advertisers do not pay too much attention to beauty products and treatments as it is a necessary function of advertisers to cater to the public’s demand. TV programmes (e.g. Nip/Tuck, Extreme Makeover) do not overemphasise beauty products and treatments because they too respond to the public’s demand – it is necessary if they want to keep the public entertained.
Note: This is one way of having scope and a range of examples within each paragraph – here, two areas (advertising and TV) within the broader idea of media are included.
Para 2 [Aspect: Economic]
The beauty industry is growing, and less attention would mean fewer economic benefits. To sustain the economic value of this growing industry, it is thus important to continue paying attention to this industry. This is especially relevant in countries where the industry is particularly large (e.g. cosmetic surgery in South Korea) – clearly, it is not unnecessary.
Para 3 [Level: Individual]
Because some people need make-up to boost their self-confidence. Because ironing out a wrinkle with a little Botox might make a person happier. It is thus necessary to make one’s life that little bit better.
You might want to organise the paragraphs according to different yardsticks, if you’ve managed to think of more than one
Far too much = (1) unnecessary OR
(2) harmful / detrimental
(3) alternatives (areas to focus our attention on) are more sensible
Here, some paragraphs may consider the first yardstick, and others might consider the second, and others the thrid. According to this structure, your scope (in terms of levels/aspects) will come in within each paragraph. For example:
Paragraph 1: Unnecessary on an individual and societal level
Paragraph 2: Unnecessary media coverage
Paragraph 3: Detrimental to individuals, both young and old
Paragraph 4: Channelling scientific research into more useful areas (not the beauty industry) are more beneficial
PHRASING / EXPRESSING YOURSELF
For those of you who struggle with the way you phrase and express ideas, the idea of “too much” is that some sort of line is crossed. To use language to show this idea, you might want to say something along the lines of, “Far too much attention is given to beauty products and treatments because we use beauty products and treatments to the point where it becomes unnecessary”
(1) Go through the thinking tips above and write down other possible yardsticks that we can use to measure “far too much”.
If you’re stuck, try filling in the blanks here:
Far too much attention is given to beauty products and treatments because _____[yardstick]_______.
It is not true that far too much attention is given to beauty products and treatments because _____[yardstick]_______.
(2) Use the yardsticks generated in (1), or existing yardsticks mentioned in the above post, to write either an introduction or a body paragraph for this essay.
(3) Repeat (1) and (2) above to a similar question:
Does the modern world place too much reliance on technology? (2003)