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Another Level 3 Question Commentary
by Janet Prescott - Monday, 28 January 2019, 8:49 PM

Another exam commentary for those of you who are preparing for the February RHS exams; this one from Level 3 unit 3113, the least-loved and most impenetrable part of the RHS syllabus. THis is from February ‘18.

Q5. a) Provide the specifications for ONE NAMED material suitable for the construction of a low freestanding wall. [4 marks]
b) State the procedure for the construction of the wall in a) on a cleared level site, using the material specified in a). [6 marks]


This question relates to the following part of the syllabus:
5.1 Describe materials suitable for the construction of garden walls. To include: free standing and retaining walls.
Materials and components to include: bricks, concrete blocks (reconstituted stone and dense aggregate), natural stone, wood, gabions, damp proof courses, mortar mixes, pointing, coping, drainage.
Specifications to include as appropriate: colour, dimensions, surface finish, durability and maintenance requirements.
Sustainability issues (e.g. reuse, recycling, reclamation, carbon footprint).

5.4 Describe the construction of walls, fences and pergolas.
To include: the procedures for construction of:
- a low brick freestanding garden wall; - a concrete block retaining garden wall; - timber sleeper raised bed; - a panel fence; - a strained wire fence; - a close boarded fence; - a pergola.

Details to include: - overall dimensions of features; - sequence of construction; - tools and equipment (manual/mechanised).

For this question it is particularly important to read through the question first before starting to answer the first part. You want to make sure you suggest a material that you are able to provide both a detailed specification and the construction procedure. An example from the syllabus could be used, such as brick or natural stone.
For part a) the examiner’s comments suggest the points that should be included in the specifications as:
• Constituent material (e.g. clay in the case of brick, sandstone or similar for stone, etc)
• Dimensions
• Colour
• Surface finish
• Durability/frost resistance
• Provenance (e.g. Staffordshire for bricks, York for stone)
• Designation (e.g. facing or engineering)
• Method of manufacture (e.g. wire-cut for brick, split or pitched face for stone).
These would be useful headings to use when revising for all the different materials.

For part b) there is quite a bit of detail in the question to help you know what to include from the point of view of when the construction starts and finishes. This is useful so you don’t waste time describing clearing the site and setting out. Keep checking the wording on questions as you answer them, as it is easy to include a lot of detail on parts that aren’t required and therefore wouldn’t gain any marks.
Make sure you relate your answer to the material you have selected for a).
The examiner’s comments suggest the following:
Suitable procedure (dependent on material chosen) could include
• Excavation with some indication of depth
• Installation of foundation (e.g. concrete strip or consolidated subsoil)
• Laying of first course
• Laying subsequent courses (bond specified as appropriate)
• Method of securing (e.g. mortar or pins/bolts/screws for timber)
• Dealing with joints as appropriate (i.e. pointing)
Further examiners’ comments explain that a detailed account of each stage wasn’t needed, but an outline of each stage with key aspects highlighted.
The question asks you to ‘state’ which indicates that a reasonable amount of detail is required, but not as much as ‘describe’ or ‘explain’.