Exam Technique

Exam Technique

How will you be examined?

There will be a set of questions, that look like this:

  1. ‘This source is critical of (X / Y / Z), how do you know?’ (4 marks).
  2. ‘Which source is more useful for a historian studying (X / Y / Z)?’ (12 marks).
  3. ‘Write an account of…’ (e.g. how the Manchurian Crisis became a failure for the League) (8 marks).
  4. ‘A was the biggest cause of… (X / Y / Z). To what extent do you agree? (16 marks).

As you can see, just as the unit title focusses on ‘conflict and tension’, so too do the questions lend themselves to asking about failure, war, and how things got worse over time

We will now talk you through the technique for each one.

Q1: ‘This source is critical of (X / Y / Z). How do you know?’ (4 marks)

This question is very straightforward – it is asking you how a source criticises something (says that it is bad).

What you need to write:

  1. One detail of the source which criticises (X) is…
  2. This is critical because.
  3. Repeat for a second detail.

Q2: ‘Which source is more useful for a historian studying (X / Y / Z)?’ (12 marks)

This question is asking you to analyse the usefulness (what you can learn from the content weighted up against how reliable it).

What you need to write:

  1. This source is useful for a historian studying X because you can learn…
  2. This is evident in the source as (two specific details).
  3. This is reinforced with (own knowledge to back up).
  4. As a result, the source is useful for learning about…
  5. The reliability of the source is…
  6. This is because…
  7. (L4) Therefore, on balance the source is ____ useful.
  8. Repeat for the second source.
  9. Make an overall judgement – which source is more useful.
  10. If the question only asks ‘how useful are these two sources’… then you need to make a judgement on how useful they are together.
  11. (L4) Balance what you can learn from the content, against the reliability of the source.

Q3:__ ‘Write an account of…’__ (8 marks)

In broad terms, this question is asking you to tell a story. But it must be an analytical story, with focus on cause and effect.

What you need to write:

  1. Give one key date / event in the story that you have been asked to tell.
  2. Give details about what happened, as specific as possible, but don’t spend ages.
  3. Explain what the consequences of this event were.
  4. Develop your reasoning with a second, more general effect on the wider period.
  5. (L4) Make a link to the next point you are going to talk about.
  6. (L4) Open with a comment about the links between events.
  7. Repeat the above for a second event / date.

Q4: ‘X was the most significant factor in Y. To what extent do you agree? (16 marks).

This question asks you to analyse how different factors caused a large trend / event (for example, what caused the Second World War).

What you need to write:

  1. State the first named factor (X) and how it is relevant.
  2. Give some details about that factor (two specific at least).
  3. Explain how these details reflect that factor.
  4. Develop your reasoning – what does affect the wider growth of ‘Conflict and Tension’?
  5. (Level 4) Link this trend to the others (Ps2 or 3), OR to the wider context of the period.
  6. Repeat for a second and third factor (L4, continuing to make links).
  7. Make a judgement.