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Another exam question commentary, this one for Level 3 Garden Planning - from 3113, June 2018
by Janet Prescott - Monday, 3 June 2019, 7:24 PM

Q6. State the specifications for the construction of a timber picket fence under EACH of the following headings:                        [10 marks]

i)                 posts;

ii)                rails;

iii)              pales.

This question relates to the following part of the syllabus:

5.2 Describe materials suitable for garden fences. 

To include: panel (including trellis), close boarded and picket, strained wire. 

Materials and components to include: timber, metal and concrete posts, gravel boards, rails, panels, pales, post caps, fixings, strainers. 

Specifications to include as appropriate: colour, dimensions, durability (to include timber types and pre-treatment), maintenance requirements. 

Sustainability issues e.g. carbon footprint (including end of life), Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC).


The examiners’ comments state that the aim of the question is to ‘assess the candidate’s knowledge of the materials and components used in garden fence construction’. Good detail needs to be known and understood about a range of materials for various hard landscape features, including four types of fencing.

Although this is a 10 mark question, it is split into different components, making it clearer on what is required. The examiners’ comments give an indication of how marks were awarded and what was expected in the answer – ‘For each part marks were awarded for specifications of the timber, usually tantalised or pressure treated softwood, dimensions (length and sectional), finish (e.g. planed or sawn) and any specific details (e.g. morticed for the posts, triangular section for the rails and pointed or rounded tops for the pales).

This provides a good guide for specifying timber for a range of features, i.e. type of timber and whether treated, suitable dimensions, finish and any particular shapes. You need to understand what all the component parts are, and how they fix together to be able to answer the question well. However, for this question, you do not need to include detail of the actual construction procedure. The examiners’ comments mention that ‘Many candidates wasted time in describing the construction procedure which was not required rather than concentrating on the specification of the materials or components’.