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Sample question: level 2
by Janet Prescott - Sunday, 18 March 2018, 11:53 PM

another commentary on how to answer an RHS exam question:

R2111 Feb ‘17

Q3a)  Name TWO vertical elements (other than walls and fences) that are used in a domestic garden  (2 marks)

b) Compare TWO distinct natural materials used in the manufacture of ONE element named in a).  (4 marks)

c) State TWO reasons for choosing a material for the treads of garden steps (4 marks)

The question relates to 5.2 of the RHS syllabus:

5.2 Describe a range of vertical elements: walls, fences, screens, pergolas, furniture, statuary. For each of the above, compare TWO examples of natural and man-made materials used in their manufacture.

Natural materials to include where appropriate: rock (marble, limestone, flint, slate), wood (timber, wicker), bamboo, reeds.

Man-made to include: brick, concrete, plastic, glass fibre and metal.

Comparison to include suitability of each material in practical and in design terms.



This is an example of a question where you need to be careful to answer with the correct number of examples or points for each part. The numbers required are always in bold and capital letters to make it clearer.

For part a) there are four options possible from the syllabus. You can also use other examples of your own as long as they are suitable. The examiner’s comments stated that ‘Acceptable answers included: screen, arch, pergola, furniture, trellis, arbour, statuary, shed, summer house’.

It is helpful to look at examiner’s comments for examples and points that are not suitable, which in this case were steps and ponds, which ‘could not be awarded any marks as these are horizontal elements’.

This is where it helps to be very familiar with the syllabus as steps are listed in the syllabus under horizontal surfaces.

For part b), only one of your vertical elements should be selected. More detail is required for an answer that asks you to ‘compare’. Also note the use of ‘distinct’ and make sure you don’t use two materials that are similar.

The examiner’s comments suggested the following:

‘Screens – Reed Roll Screening

The reed can present a natural appearance and looks good with an oriental theme. It has a relatively short life span and is easily damaged.

Screens – Softwood Timber Trellis Screening

Softwood will last longer if treated. It can be painted to match other garden features and is more durable than reeds.’


For part c) the examiner’s comments list suitable non-slip materials for steps. Reasons for selecting the materials would be the non-slip nature of them and another factor such as durability or a design factor, such as riven paving to link with the same material used in the patio.