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GCSE History: How should I answer?

Updated on April 27, 2010

Getting Inside the Examiners Head!

If you're taking a course in GCSE History then you'll know just how hard it is to understand exactly what the examiner or teacher is asking you to do.

But hopefully this guide will explain what the questions themselves actually mean, and will help you answer them more thoroughly, and achieve the grade you deserve!

Describing:

What were the causes of...?/ In what ways were the...?

Okay, so this is the easiest of the bunch. A simple 4 mark question. All the examiner wants is facts. No opinions, no inferences nothing. Just four simple, relevant facts for the A grade... or three for the B... two for C...etc.

Simple!

Explaining:

How did.../ Why...

This type of question is also rather simple. Just give two or three reasons with some clear and factual evidence. Don't write an essay for an explanation question, they're normally worth only six marks, this means NO CONCLUSION.

Why/What - Source Questions

What is the message...?

You will get source questions. So prepare yourself and follow this simple guide when presented with the question What is the message of this source?

Ok, so all the examiner really wants is to know if you know about one-sidedness (biased) and whether or not you can see if a source was made for a particular reason. For the answer, simply give BOTH sides of the argument, prove your own knowledge with dates and trivia and come to a clear conclusion.

Remember, a conclusion is your OWN opinion.

How - Source Questions

How far.../ How important...?

Here, the examineer wants you to write a non-biased answer and come to a conclusion. In this question, there is often hidden information, paticularly where the ones-sidedness occurs. So watch out, this is one of the most trickiest questions of the bunch!

Why - Source Questions

Why do these sources disagree...?

The examiner wants to know that you know the facts. You need to know why they differ, not necessarily how. As always, incorporate your own knowledge into the question to receive all the marks up for grabs!

What - Source Questions

What can this source tell us...?

In this question the examiner wants you to write a lot about a little! Just look at the source and try to figure out what the hidden meanings are. Be wary of one-sidedness and as always - include your own knowledge!

Do you agree with this statement...?

Nothing to do with sources! Yay!

Okay, so this is it! This type of question is often your final 12 mark question, and if you haven't got a cramp in your arm by now, you're doing it wrong!

Ironically, this one of the simplest questions. You just need to be careful.

Ensure your answers cover both sides of the argument and that you refer to some of the sources. A good A* answer will include your own knowledge as well.

How far does Source... Agree with Source...

Alright... alright... one more source question...

This question is probably the most complicated in the entire exam. How far does one source prove another source is wrong. You will always be asked to prove another source wrong, not right. For this question, include your own knowledge and evaluate both the sources considering the author of the source - could it be one-sided.

Tips!

Things that apply to all the questions:

Source Questions:

  • Purpose - Why was the source written? Propaganda?

  • Author - Was the author under pressure? Being forced?

  • Content - What is actually in the source? Don't overlook it!

All Questions:

  • Time yourself - Work out how many minutes to spend on each question.

  • Knowledge - ALWAYS use your own knowledge!

  • If all else fails - fill the page with as much as you can. You don't lose marks for wrong answers, so get as much down as you can.

Revision Material

It's no good being told to include your own knowledge if you don't have any. That's why i recommend some serious revision material. In my personal experience CGP make some excellent books and I highly recommend them.

I also recommend you visit John D Clare.net for some excellent knowledge from an actual history teacher. It's a brilliant site that helped me a lot!

Always check you're buying revision books for the right exam board (AQA, OCR, EDEXCEL) otherwise you might be learning the wrong information!

This lense has become quite popular so I thought I'd answer any GCSE History questions you might have. Ask away!

Questions?

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    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Incidentally, don't get trustworthy confused with useful. A source can be useful without being trustworthy. For example, a propaganda poster by the British government from 1915 saying how great the war was wouldn't be very trustworthy, however it can still give a historian information about attitudes at the time and how the government persuaded people to go to the front.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: You need to look at who wrote (or drew, photographed, etc) each one and when, then use the source and your own knowledge to work out why they were both written. A trustworthy, or reliable, source is one that shows events that are truthful. You need to evaluate which one is more close to reality, and give reasons (This source written by A. Hitler about how he loves peace isn't very trustworthy because...).

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      i don't get the content bit were you say don't over look it

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      how would you answer a 6 marks question?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      how would you answer a question saying to compare and evaluate your anwers

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm not really too sure about your question, I guess just try to justify your viewpoint, it's very much like RE GCSE.

      However, for history, you don't try to write one point per mark, and it all depends on the size of your handwriting. Double the number of marks is the amount of time you should spend on each question.

      Hope I helped. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm not really too sure about your question, I guess just try to justify your viewpoint, it's very much like RE GCSE.

      However, for history, you don't try to write one point per mark, and it all depends on the size of your handwriting. Double the number of marks is the amount of time you should spend on each question.

      Hope I helped. :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      How exactly would you answer a question that asks 'which of these sources is more trustworthy?' I'm not too sure if you've covered it, so I just thought I'd ask.

      I'm doing a voluntary mock for revision, I'm regretting asking for it. :P

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      How would you answer "How useful is Source..for explaining why.....?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      how would you answer a question saying do you agree with.... ? and how many words should you write for a 6 mark question. ?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: I'd say go ahead and describe 3 features in depth. State your point, but then describe it thoroughly.

      6 marks does seem a bit unusual for questions of this type.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great analysis but you left out one question type: Explain how... yes you included a six mark question but what about the 12 mark questions? The question is:

      explain how germany suffered from social and economic problems up to 1923 and how it had begun to recover by the end of 1924. In your answer refer to the bullet points and use other relevant knowledge.

      * hyperinflation crisis of 1923

      * actions of Gustav Stresemann.

      Thank you very much for your input of this matter

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      what if the question is to "describe briefly the key features of..."? it's a 6 mark question, and i THINK you're supposed to describe 3 'key features' but i can't remember!!! *cries hysterically* Is it 3 features?

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hey if the question is like: Assess, using the sources and your own knowledge, the view that â.......â

      How far do the sources agree with this statement?

      What is the format to answering this type of questions?

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      How much should you write per question? I normally write about a page and never have enough time for the later ones at the end.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      dude i need help i have to find a technique to answer the questions apart from just stating factual knowledge

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i have my test tomorrow and im really confused as to how to actually get the extra marks required i can easily state the information required but when looking at examining reports there is a lot more im missing out on. can you please help? thanx xxx

    • chriiiiis profile image
      Author

      chriiiiis 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Absolutely. Your conclusion is your final answer to the question. It shows the examiner that you have understood all the arguments in that paticular topic but have been able to reach your own conclusions.

      Remember though! If you're extremely low on time you can bullet point your conclusion and still get some marks. Whatever you do, don't leave your essay without one!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Do you need a conclusion for 'Why' questions? (c) in Section A...

    • chriiiiis profile image
      Author

      chriiiiis 6 years ago

      @anonymous: There's a few possibilities as to what the teacher meant. Firstly, it may simply mean to evaluate the provenance, or origin, of the source. Is the source reliable, who wrote it, for what purpose etc.

      Secondly, the term 'evaluate' the source may mean you need to consider what the source is saying and what it therefore implies, for example a source might simply say that production of raw materials was low during WWII for Germany, however the evaluation of that source would imply many other things, for example the country was poorly organised etc.

      I'm going to guess that it's the first one and therefore I would use the PACT method, Purpose of the source, Author of the source, Content of the source and the general Tone of the source. This method will allow you to easily evaluate a sources information.

      Anything else, feel free to ask.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi I know this is quite an old lense, but I have a question, that I just can't find the answer to it. My teacher used to always leave the comment "evaluate the source/sources" It didn't seem to be a problem at the time, but now I have no idea what it means- so I was wondering if you could explain it a little bit, it would be a great help

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      thankyou so much! this advice on how to approach sources helped me...but only problem is...what key events and figures do i need to know for the topic 'medicine through time' for my source paper exam tomorrow? (i'm on edexcel) i have had a look at the John Clare website link you posted but it appears to only cover the topic of 'modern history', different to the one i studied. :S

      help? :P x

    • chriiiiis profile image
      Author

      chriiiiis 7 years ago

      @anonymous: If you're losing marks for not mentioning certain pieces of information then maybe you should re-read the question every few minutes to make sure you're not straying away from the answer. I personally find it very easy to include large chunks of paragraphs that aren't actually relevant to the question but are nevertheless still historically accurate. Another thing worth paying attention to is your essay technique; linking to the question, cross referencing sources etc. They're the sort of things that can gain you those few extra marks and can easily be overlooked while under pressure.

      If you need any more advice, feel free to ask. If not, good luck with your exam!

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I seem to know the facts, but i always miss out on full marks on each question by at least two or three. When i read back the comments that my teachers leave, often i have missed out things that i would have never thought to have included in that answer. do you have any tips?