Knowing how to tackle a history question even when it is right in front of you can seem tough, let alone trying to prepare for it before you know what it is going to be! How do you fit so much information into your head? How do you know what the examiner wants to see in the answer? How do you fit it all into a timed essay? It is certainly challenging, but good revision techniques can take a massive part of the burden off your shoulders! In this guide we will look at Paper 1 and Papers 2 & 3 in turn. We will focus on two things: ways to help you memorise the information you need with as little stress as possible, and ways to approach the different types of questions you will face. Structure your revision around these two things and you will be putting yourself into the best possible position for your exams!
How to approach it:
The first paper is designed to test your ability to interact with sources you may not have seen before. The real key to success is to understand the specific requirements of each section of the test. Divided into four sections, this test is easy to get a handle on, but hard to perfect, so practice away!
What the test wants you to do:
The first section asks you to demonstrate the central message of a given source. The key here is comprehension. Just retrieve the information from the source (no background knowledge needed!). Focus on the author’s (or often cartoonist’s) intention, and what the source draws attention to. So in essence, this is a ‘how does this source make you feel and why?’ question.
The point of the second section is to compare and contrast the perspectives of two sources. Usually the sources are only just long enough to include about six points of major similarity and difference, so it’s like playing spot the difference between two pictures. Simply read through carefully and circle what you find!
The third section is an evaluation of the famous O.P.V.L. (origins, purpose, value and limitations) of a source. This will usually be stated in the form “with reference to the source’s origins and purposes, assess the values and limitations of...” So do just that! Make sure you get in
o a) at least one value and one limitation, and
o b) connect the values and limitations to the origins and purpose (e.g. the source is a unique eyewitness record because the author was the only survivor)
Let’s look at an example of a good OPVL answer and then a bad answer in a paper 1, section III question: