Higher History Exam skills How to answer Essay questions

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The Exam Page 3

Suggested timing Page 3
Marking information Page 4
Types of questions Page 5
Past Paper examples Pages 6-7
Essay layout guide Page 8
Planning your essay Page 9
How to write: Introduction Page 10
How to write: Knowledge Page 11
How to write: Analysis Page 12
How to write: Evaluation Page 13-14
How to write: Conclusion Page 15
Example essay Pages 16-17

The Exam

  • Exam is in two parts:

o Essay questions x 2

    1. Sources questions x 3

  • All sections must be completed within the 2 hours 20 minutes

  • Exam is out of 60 marks (20 marks per essay and for all source questions)

  • Final mark is out of 90 marks (including Assignment)

Suggested timing
You have to complete all questions within the allotted time. It is up to you how to do this but you may wish to use the timings below:

Essay question 1

40 minutes

Essay question 2

40 minutes

Sources questions

60 minutes

For each essay you should use the following time suggestions:

Write a plan

2 minutes

Write an introduction

4 minutes

Write the main section

30 minutes

Write a conclusion

4 minutes

Marking information

Each essay is worth 20 marks. The marks are given as follows:






 Describe context to the question;

 Introduce question/line of argument;

 Outline factors you will discuss.

2/3 points above = 1 mark. 3/3 points = 2 marks



Aim to discuss up to six key issues/factors. 1 mark for

each relevant factor/piece of evidence.

Evidence must be factually correct, detailed and

relevant to the question being answered.



3 marks for analysis, 3 marks for analysis +. If an essay does not have any analysis + max it can achieve is 13.

Analysis points can cover:

- Discuss the links between all factors;


Contradictions within/between factors;





1 mark for simple. 2 marks for complex.

Evaluation points can cover:

-The extent to which a factor is important.

-The relative importance of factors

-Counter arguments/alternative views

-Overall significance of factors



Analyse/summarise all factors;

Reach an overall conclusion;

 Give evidence for your conclusion

2/3 points above = 1 mark. 3/3 points = 2 marks


Types of questions

Essays ask you to consider a historical question that has a range of potential answers.
They can start in different ways, but the examples below give an idea of the possible questions you could face.
To what extent…?
To what extent did the fascist powers use diplomacy to achieve their aims?

How fully…?

How fully did the 1906 1914 Liberal Social Reforms meet the needs of people in Britain? -

How important was…?

How important was the role of pressure groups in Britain becoming more democratic between 1851 and 1928?

How accurate is it…?

How accurate is it to describe Britain as a fully democratic country by 1918?

 “QUOTE.” How valid this view?

WW1 is the reason that women have the vote.” How valid is this view?

Whatever the question you are asked, the purpose is to discuss a range of different issues and factors before giving an overall answer.

Past Paper questions

Britain 1851-1951

To what extent were changing political attitudes the most important reason why Britain became more democratic between 1851-1928?
The part played by women in the war effort was the main reason why some women received the vote in 1918. How valid is this view?
To what extent did the social reforms of the Liberal government, 1906-1914, meet the needs of the British people?

Britain was a fully democratic country by 1918. How valid is this view?
The Liberal reforms of 1906-1914 failed to improve the lives of the British people. How valid is this view?
To what extent did the reforms of the Labour government of 1945-1951 meet the needs of the British people?



“Britain became more democratic between 1851 and 1928 due to

industrialisation and urbanisation.” How accurate is this view?

How significant was the militant Suffragette campaign in helping

women achieve the vote?

How important were fears over national security as a reason why the

Liberal government introduced social welfare reforms, 1906-1914?

The Growth of Nationalism in Germany (Germany 1815–1939)

How important were cultural factors in the growth of national feeling in Germany between 1815 and 1850?
To what extent was resentment towards Prussia among the German states the main obstacle to German unification by 1850?
How important were economic factors in the rise to power of the Nazi Party between 1919 and 1933?
How strong was nationalism in Germany by 1850?
To what extent were the weaknesses of the Weimar Republic the major reason for the rise of the Nazi Party between 1919 and 1933?
“Through their economic policies the Nazis gave the people what they wanted.” How valid is this as a reason for the Nazis maintaining power between 1933 and 1939?
Germany 1815–1939
“By 1850 political nationalism had made little progress in Germany.” How valid is this view?
How important was the attitude of foreign states in the achievement of German unification by 1871?
Propaganda was crucial to the maintenance of power by the Nazis.” How accurate is this view?

How important was the Zollverein in the growth of German nationalism between 1815 and 1850?
“The German princes were the most important obstacle to German unification before 1850.” How valid is this view?
To what extent was Prussian military strength the main reason for German unification being achieved by 1871?
To what extent had nationalism grown in Germany by 1850?
To what extent were religious differences the main obstacle to German unification by 1850?
How important was resentment towards the Treaty of Versailles in the rise of the Nazis to power by 1933?
How important were cultural factors as a reason for the growth of nationalism in Germany, 1815-50?
To what extent was Austrian strength the main obstacle to German unification, 1815-1850?
To what extent were weaknesses of the Weimar Republic the main reason why the Nazis achieved power in 1933?
Essay types-
Growth of national feeling in Germany.
Obstacles to German Unification.
Reasons for German Unification.
The rise of the Nazi Party.
The Nazis in power.

Essay layout guide
Use this guide to tell you what is needed for each section in your essay.
REMEMBER: always plan your essay before you start

Introduction Give the context if the time you are discussing e.g.
what are the key events, etc?
Explain what the question you will be answering is and
give a suggestion of your line of argument (conclusion)
Outline the factors you will discuss in your essay
(ideally six)

Main section Discuss up to six topics which address the question
being asked
Within each topic, outline the relevant facts you know
that relate to the question
Also include a section of analysis in each part too. This
means explain how your evidence fits in with the
question i.e. is this factor the main cause, or are there
reasons it is not important?
*** One way to do this is to split each topic into two
paragraphs; one giving relevant facts, one giving
analysis/evaluation. ***

Conclusion Summarise your main findings
Give in an overall answer to the question
Give evidence/reason(s) for your answer
Planning your essay
Planning your essay it will save you from realising halfway through writing that you have something. When planning there are four key issues you should consider:

  • What is the exact question?

Check the question? What is it asking you to do? Are there any relevant dates included? Does it have an isolated factor?

  • What will your context be?

What do you know about the time that the essay covers? Are there any useful facts which would help you introduce the essay?

  • What factors will you discuss?

What do you know about the essay’s topic? Can you think of different factors that may have affected it (not just the isolated factor, if there is one)? You should aim to discuss six separate factors.

  • What will your conclusion be?

What is your conclusion going to be? That one is most important? That all factors have a role but the main one is xxx?

Plan layout

It is up to you but you could create a spider diagram to help you plan your essay, similar to the one below:

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